Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Creating a Residential Option for Your Child

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Creating a Residential Option for Your Child

Article excerpt

"One of the biggest fears of parents is that there are care giving options out there in the world that are as good or better than what they've been providing. It's a double-edged swordr" says Jerry Hulick, a Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC) with the Special Care Planning Team of The Washington Group, a general agency of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) located in Fairfax, Virginia "We want our children, whether they have special needs or not, to be as self-sufficient as they possible can. And like a typical child going off to college or moving into a place of their own, we're happy for them. But we can't help feeling sad or worried to see them go."

Today, because of medical advancements and better education opportunities, more people with special needs are able to live independently--or somewhat independently. The result is an increased demand For more housing options, and the market place is responding to that demand. Families are also being proactive, uniting to create homes their children can share, but before we delve into this intriguing option. First a bit about the housing situation in general.

The growing housing market

"The housing industry for people with special needs is evolving in a way similar to what we saw in education." says Hulick. At one time, very few children with special needs received an education. "Opportunities were limited, but when Families began advocating For better public education For their children, changes began to take place," he explains. Government standards and funding were established, and special education became an expected right rather than a limited option. Now the attention is drawn to improving the housing market, but there are no government mandates like we find in education.

"Lots of models are emerging," says Hulick. "Here in Virginia, as well as in other parts of the country, there are clusters of homes with four or so residents per household. These might be private-pay facilities or funded by a government program or monies."

You'll also find communal-type homes where residents take part in earning income to pay their living expenses through farming, craft making, arts, or another revenue-generating interest they have in common. And in many cases, individuals or couples with special needs live on their own with help from family members.

"The range of possibilities for models is unlimited, as long as you don't think in a box," says Hulick. "A multi-person home or a community neighborhood can't be created with one type of person with special needs in mind and be expected to serve the needs of numerous individuals. Each resident will have his or her own preferences, just as you and I and your own neighbors do. We must work together to create the best situation to meet every resident's needs."

Considering your child's housing needs

If you're looking For living accommodations For your child, you may need to do extensive research before finding the right place. Perhaps you've already done the work and you haven't found what you want. If you're now considering establishing a residential option for your child and others, here are some things to keep in mind.

* Quality of life--This is your highest priority. The things that will contribute to the quality of life your child will want in a home of his or her own will guide you in creating the environment that will best meet those wants and needs.

* Rest of life issues--As you work to establish this home, consider how it will meet your child's long term needs.

* Type of residence and locale--Should it be a house, an apartment in a multi-family house, a unit in an apartment complex, a condo? Should it be in the city, country, or somewhere in between? Does it need to be

* Transportation--Do you need this home to be on a bus line? Does your child need a car or van? Or should transportation be included in the list of tasks the home's service providers perform? …

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