As a parent, you are the most important person in your child’s life. You have helped your child take their first steps, form their first sentences, dress themselves, make their own meals, and much more. Even as your child ages, your role doesn’t become any less important, especially when they are ready to leave the nest, start living on their own and achieve financial well-being into adulthood.
So, what if you are a parent to a child with special needs? You’re still the most important person in your child’s life. However, milestones could differ; there may never be the first sentence, the ability to prepare their own meals, or the ability to do daily tasks many take for granted. Regardless of the accommodations they need daily, the ultimate goal is for your child to lead an independent, fulfilling, and purposeful life.
Like parents of neurotypical children, parents of special-needs children must plan for their retirement, possible disability, and eventual passing. Additionally, they must prepare for their child’s long-term care—where, or whom, will they reside with after you’re gone, and how to transition them to adulthood.
We want our loved ones to make the most out of life; we want them to feel loved and safe and contributing members of the community. To accomplish this, special needs parents must begin planning well before their children reach the age of 18. If you wait too long, it could be too late- especially if we want our children to remain at home under our watchful eye. Under this scenario, though we may not realize it, we are setting our children up for unimaginable when we are gone or unable to care for them ourselves due to our own diminishing health as we age. Naturally, you want what’s best for your child, so planning for your child’s transition from living at home to living on their own is one of the most important things you can do to pave the way to their successful future.
What Type of Independent Living Situation is Best: Community Residential Home or Live Alone?
One of the most important decisions you’ll have to make for your transitioning special needs adult is whether they can live alone, or if they are be better-suited for a group home environment.
Signs that your child may be able to live on their own include highly developed self-care skills (such as bathing, grooming, dressing, doing laundry, making the bed), the ability to handle money, the ability to make meals, the ability to drive or use public transportation, and an ability to maintain personal safety and boundaries. If these abilities aren’t yet developed, you may want to consider a group living situation.
Many parents of special needs children find it best that their adult child live in a supportive group home with other adults with special needs. Some homes are staffed with counselors or other workers who assist the residents to live on their own while others do not. Group homes can come in many varieties and be paid for in different ways.
In fact, we have a great example of a Group Home for autistic residents right here in our own neighborhood, Babe’s House. Babe’s House is a Community Residential (group) Home that serves adult males with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Through a partnership with the APPBC, the ARC of the Treasure Coast (formerly ARC of Martin County) manages the home operations, staffing it 24/7 with professionals to meet the needs of residents. According to an article published by South Florida Reporter, “Each staff member has a key fob to allow entry and exit to the home. Specially placed security cameras inside and out, allow staff to view the common areas, like the Great Room, Game Room, and Kitchen, any time of the day or night to ensure a safe environment but in a less intrusive manner.” The home is also fully equipped to handle storms as it was built with hurricane windows and doors and a whole house generator.
Like Babe’s House, many group home facilities require that residents qualify for this type of housing situation, so you’ll want to check with your local organizations to learn about qualifying requirements.
Help Your Child Prepare for the Transition
Transitioning to a new living situation can be an emotional and stressful experience for you and your family. Still, there are some things you can do to prepare everyone for this major change.
- Connect with Other Parents of Special Needs Children
Connect with other families who have been through this process either through your child’s school or through a parent organization. Talking to others in your community who can help you mentally prepare for what’s ahead and give you the chance to ask questions of those who have done it already.
- Verbalize the Positive
Some special needs young adults are excited to gain much-needed independence, while others are more skeptical. As you move through the transition, be sure to focus on and verbalize the positive aspects of the change ahead. For example, if your child is moving into a group atmosphere, you can stress the new friends they will make and the new opportunities they will have. Remind them that you will remain a huge part of their life and reinforce how proud you are of their courage in taking on this next chapter.
- Communicate & Include
Communicate as much as possible about this transition and include your child in the process as much as you can. Keeping the lines of communication open will allow your child to voice their fears and concerns in a safe space so that any trepidations can be worked through in advance of moving day. Making sure they are involved in as much of their transition as possible will give them a sense of agency, involvement, and investment in their future as independent young adults. For example, take your child with you when you’re touring homes to meet staff and other residents. This will build a sense of familiarity, which is important when moving from one place to another. As the moving date draws closer, consider helping them visualize what a typical day might look like in their new space.
Work with a Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC®)
If you’re a caregiver to someone with special needs, a Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC®) can be an invaluable resource. Not only can you count on your ChSNC® to help you make the best financial decisions for your special needs child, but you can lean on them for support as you make difficult life transitions such as this one.
A Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC®) has the specialized training and experience required to help manage the unique legal and financial planning needs for individuals with disabilities. We take pride in ensuring we can adequately address your concerns, hopes, and goals and those of your special needs family.
At URS Advisory, we are proud to have two Chartered Special Needs Consultants on our team. Myself, Julia Lembcke, the founder of URS Advisory, and our Relationship Manager, Corinne Poor. Together, we are here to provide you with individualized attention and help you navigate potential government benefits, take advantage of ABLE accounts, set up special needs trusts, and plan for long-term care as well as financial support of an individual who may not be able to live an independent, autonomous lifestyle.
We are here to provide our professional guidance so that you don’t have to figure out your financial situation with a special needs loved one on your own. Please contact us to see if we’re the right fit for you.