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Choosing Resources for Adults with Special Needs

Updated on February 11, 2015



Everything Changes

Most parents remember when they were informed or became aware that their child had special needs. It changed everything. It changed their outlook on life, their hopes and dreams for this child, their views of parenting, and sometimes their self-esteem. Questions pop into their heads. Did I do something wrong? Was it something I ate? Did I take a medication that did this to my child? Did I do something wrong? Was it something I ate? Did I take a medication that did this to my child? Sadly, there will be no answers to their heart-breaking questions.

Then help arrives. When the child is still an infant, Early Childhood Intervention will come to the home and work with the baby and parents on things like motor skills and language. Then at the ripe old age of 3--yes 3--the child is allowed to enter the public school system. An Individual Education Plan is created to meet his needs. For the next 18 years--until he is 21 years old, he will be evaluated and receive special education classes, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and any other therapy the IEP committee determines he needs.

Eventually, the 'child' turns 21 years old and is no longer eligible for services through the school. He is sent home--to do what? He can't hold a job. He certainly can't live independently. So who will help him? Who is responsibility for him? He is an adult--but he's not an ADULT.

Where is the help now?

Group Homes

Would you allow your adult child with special needs to live in a group home?

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Strength Defined


Stories of Two Moms

Linda has always protected and cared for Celia. From the day she was told her child has special needs, Linda determined she would never fail this child God had given her.

"Celia has been my baby and no one else's. I didn't even let her father do things for her. If she needed something, she called out to me and I did it for her. I taught her how to dial my phone number when she was still in elementary school. She knew that if she needed something, all she had to do was call me. She has never spent a day away from me and I won't let her be away from me now. I wanted her to feel secure, so I taught her that I would always be there for her. She will live with me for the rest of her life."

Cynthia has a different view of her parenting role.

"I was still pregnant when the doctors told me there was something wrong with my baby. My husband and I were devastated. We were in a daze for weeks. What do we do? How do we act? How do we tell others?

One night my husband came home from work and wanted to talk. He asked me how we would raise any child. I thought he had lost his mind. What did he mean? He asked me what my goals for any child would be. I said I would want him or her to be the best they could be and use their God-given talents to the best of their ability. Then my husband asked me if this child deserved the same thing. I was insulted. How dare he insinuate that I was cheating my child out of something that was rightfully his. My husband calmed me down and said that even though this child would have special needs, he or she still deserved to be who God intended for him to be. After a little thought and soul searching, I had to agree.

"We have raised Stetson to be everything he can be. Although there have been some modifications to meet his needs, we haven't accepted excuses for failures. We raised him alongside our other children with responsibilities and chores.

"After he left school, we didn't have enough chores to keep him busy all day. Then he started complaining that all of his siblings got to go to college, so why didn't he? We began to research programs for adults with special needs and found the perfect place.

"Stetson lives in a group home where he helps around the house, goes to school, and trains for a job. He is as independent as his capabilities allow him to be. He has met the goal we had for each of our children. He is the best he can be and we are very proud of him?"

Different Views

Linda and Cynthia have different views of what a child with special needs requires. Linda felt that it was her job to protect Celia from the world. Cynthia felt that it was her job to prepare Stetson to meet the world on whatever level he was capable.

Each view raises a different set of questions.

Linda's View:

  • How does Celia feel about herself?
  • Is she proud of herself?
  • Does she feel like an adult?
  • What will happen to Celia when you are no longer able to care for her?
  • Who will care for her at that time?
  • Will they be as motivated to care for her as you were?

Cynthia's View:

  • What resources are available to Stetson?
  • What type of work does he like to do?
  • What will be his responsibilities at the group home?
  • Will he be with people his own age and ability?
  • Will there always be someone in the group home to care for him?

Once a person begins to look at the questions each view presents, the difference in the views become glaringly obvious. Linda is caring for Celia the way she does because it makes her feel good. She doesn't feel as guilty if she does everything for Celia. She feels like a special mom of a special needs child.

Cynthia, on the other hand, is caring for Stetson the way she does because she has his best interest in mind. Why should Stetson or any other child with special needs be cheated out of the joy of accomplishments? Why shouldn't he know what it's like to overcome a huge obstacle? He deserves to feel good about himself. Cynthia has made that possible with her parent skills.

Where is Home for Adults with Special Needs?

A significant number of adults with special needs are unable to live alone. They don't want to live with relatives. Where do they live?

There are group or residential homes available. Some are being closed due to government cutbacks, but there are still choices available. Before 1968, there were few options. That year there were approximately 700 group homes. By 1999 there were approximately 168,000 homes. Extensive research failed to reveal a count after 1999. That might be because so many of them are private homes. They are licensed by the state, but privately owned.

Residents Sharing a Meal in a Group Home


Choose Homes Carefully

There are not only many homes, but many variations of homes. Unlike public school, there are no regulations for the services offered. Of course, basic care is regulated, but beyond that there is a wide variety of programs.

Some homes complete an Individual Program Plan for each resident, outlining their needs, goals, and a plan of action to achieve those goals. Goals include job training, personal growth, and life skills.

Some programs are designed for specific disabilities. Each disability has its own characteristics. Programs focused on one disability allow for more structured teaching skills.

Of course, there are the homes that just provide basic care with no thought for growth. The residents are simply housed. This type of housing is the same type of thinking as Linda. Programs with a focus on the best interest of the resident, plan programs that will teach life skills, job training, and personal growth.

Many of the homes are privately owned. These should be scrutinized carefully before choosing.

Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Home

Choosing a home for an adult with special needs can be a daunting task. These residents are at high risk of abuse and therefore, need protection. For the growth of the adult, his family must balance independence with protection. Here are some things to look for when choosing.

  • Visit the home several times and at different times of the day.
  • Are the residents active?
  • How does the staff interact with the residents?
  • How do they speak to the residents?
  • Do the residents interact with each other?
  • Are the residents clean and well dressed?
  • Is the home clean and free of smell?
  • How are meals served?
  • Are the meals healthy and tasty?

Consider these things before choosing a home for a loved one who needs group housing. In the next few weeks watch for a list of resources to assist families in making decisions.

© 2014 Theresa Franklin


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