Any parent will tell you that watching their child step into independent adulthood evokes both pride and anxiety at the same time. This sense of trepidation and exhilaration is doubled when that child has a developmental disabilities. The following story is written by Shannon K. whose daughter, Christina, lived in the Barton Place apartment unit while enrolled in the Bear Creek Services Independent Living Services (BCILS) program. We are happy to report that Christina was the program’s first graduate and she now lives independently!
This is the experience from Christina’s mom’s point of view:
We adopted Christina when she was 16 years old. Christina graduated high school in 2010 and then lived at home until the opportunity at Barton Place became available when she was 21.
Christina is now 24. Christina had gained many skills through her schooling, transition program, and with life in general up. Although she had gained these skills, they were in set-up environments that weren’t real-life situations.
For example, I think there is a difference with completing job applications and mock interviews versus completing a job application and needing to bring it to a perspective employer. There is something different when getting an actual paycheck and having a back account compared to having a mock check and checkbook register. As with all skills, they need to be taught, then practiced, and then applied. She was now at a place in her life to be able to do so.
She was still quite shy and unsure of herself. She also needed many prompts and reminders to be able to complete various skills such as daily personal cares. She would sometimes omit steps or skip parts when reading recipes. She had the skills to be able to go grocery shopping and plan a weekly menu, but needed almost continual support. She had knowledge of housekeeping skills, but things are always different when living at home versus living independently when it is your responsibility.
She was at a place in her life where she needed— and wanted—to put them into practice. She wanted to become her own person and take steps towards living her own life. In order to accomplish this goal, she needed an environment where she had appropriate supports in place so she entered into the BCILS program.
When she first entered into the program, I was very excited for her, yet also reserved and cautious. This was my first experience with maneuvering independent living and housing situations with an adult. I wanted her to be successful and have the right supports. I must admit, I am one to probably hold on a little too tight! Her move into Barton Place was an experience for our whole family.
Christina moved into Barton Place in August of 2013. The program and staff were nothing short of perfect for what she needed. She was able to live on her own and make mistakes. That is fine since we all make mistakes when we first move out into the real world. However, she still had a “safety net” available for her.
Staff made sure she was as independent as possible while providing appropriate guidance as needed in whatever situation she might face. We could see her smiling more, becoming more social, and really opening up into a young woman who was not as shy. She was gaining self-confidence and becoming more independent. She was beginning to take ownership and pride in what she accomplished.
As time went on, one of her bigger accomplishments was learning the bus line, including routes, transfers, and schedules. If you have not used a city bus, it can be very complex! She became quite proficient and independent using it. I remember my many reservations, but it occurred at a time that was natural and necessary for her.
The location of the apartment was perfect for Christina. She was close enough to local businesses to learn how to access them. It was close to the bus route which helped her get to work, to social engagements, and other locations she may have needed to access for whatever reason. She was also close to home and could come visit as she wanted.
The communication with BCILS staff was very good. We were always kept up to date and encouraged to stay in contact with Christina. We were informed of appointments, collaborated with staff regarding transportation to various events, and we met as often as her team felt necessary in order for her to have a program that best met her needs. We always felt listened to and collaborated with.
The staff are well-trained and always had Christina’s best interest at heart. They really took the time to get to know her, spend time with her, assess where her areas of strength were, or to figure out what her areas of need were. They developed a program with goals for her to be challenged, yet successful, and at a pace that was appropriate for her.
Christina would sometimes choose the path of least resistance, if allowed. Staff encouraged her to branch out where appropriate and to try new, different things. Yet at the same time, they still made her feel valued, heard, and in charge of making her own decisions.
Staff worked with Christina on budgeting, keeping a checkbook register, keeping track of her spending, learning how to access and utilize online banking, what to do in emergency situations (weather-related or other), menu planning, grocery shopping, daily chores, general living space upkeep, and more. There were visual supports and checklists posted throughout the apartment, which served as reminders for her to utilize.
I remember meetings where she would just glow as we discussed her progress. I remember her being able to appropriately accept feedback of areas that she needed to address, without being hard on herself. I could tell she felt accomplished for what she had done. This would not have been possible without the skills that she was taught at Barton Place, the Barton Place environment, and the great staff.
Christina learned how to live with a roommate and how to maneuver social situations and interactions that living with others affords. This includes how to share space, who does what chores, when the chores are done, what to do if you have different interests, what to do if you have the same interests, who is responsible for what, and who is going where when. She also learned about conflict resolution, assertiveness skills, and general life skills that are necessary in order to be as independent as possible.
Christina made progress—a lot of progress—and met her program goals in November of 2013. It was time, and she was ready to look at options for living more independently! The experiences she gained at Barton Place allowed her to reach this point in her life.
Since January of 2014, Christina has lived in her own apartment. I remember when even at this crossroads in her life, as we were discussing her next step upon leaving Barton Place, she told me, “Mom, I’ll be okay. You have to cut the rope sometime.”
For the first time, I could say that I felt she and I were ready.
If your loved one with developmental disabilities is ready to take the next step toward independent living, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (507) 288–7195 to learn more about the Bear Creek Independent Living Services (BCILS) program.