Don’t assume; use data to support the need for independent living instruction and activities.
Be careful not to fall into the trap of assuming that students do or don’t need specific services based solely on the student’s disability label. Use the age appropriate transition assessments, information related to the student’s level of performance and the student’s desired postsecondary outcomes to determine the skills that are needed related to independent living.
Plan early for the future.
Make sure to ask students and their families what their goals and dreams are for independent living at least by the required age (14) dictated by Virginia regulations. Their responses may run the gamut from learning to do laundry at home to living alone in an off campus apartment. Help students and families begin early to find model programs and successful adults with disabilities to emulate.
Listen to parents and guardians.
What you see at school may differ a great deal from the student’s behavior at home.
When appropriate, integrate community based instruction (CBI) into a student’s day.
If the community is where we expect students to use skills, then it is often the most appropriate place to teach the skills. For example, if a student needs to learn how to manage his bank account, he should have opportunities to go to a bank and practice the skills needed in a natural setting.
Integrate a team approach to planning for independent living.
As a teacher, don’t think you have to do it all! Connect families with agencies and resources that support independent living.
Be aware of cultural norms.
Some cultures do not stress independence and moving away from the family.
Understand that transitioning from secondary school will change how services are provided.
It is a move from entitlement to services based on your son’s/daughter’s disability to eligibility for services. Educate yourself about services your child may be eligible for and understand how to obtain those services.
Be sure you understand what community agencies are at the transition IEP meetings and where their offices are located.
Teachers will assist you by providing information for referrals to community agencies or will include agency representatives in transition team meetings, but you will have to meet with the agency and apply for services after your son or daughter exits school.
Make a list of skills your son or daughter will need to live in the community.
Discuss this list with your student’s transition team.
Work and lobby for supports and changes in your community and government.
Often families are the strongest catalysts for change. Work to advocate for the changes you would like to see in the areas of disability services.
Learn about life after high school.
Talk with friends and neighbors who have gone to college, or who are working and living on their own. They may have some tips for you.
Try to be more independent at home.
Make your lunch each day or do your own laundry. At school, learn about clubs that are offered or opportunities to volunteer.
Learn about ways to become self-directed.
Your chances of achieving your desired level of independence are much greater when you know more about your own preferences, interests, needs and strengths and can express those to others. Your ability to set goals and make plans to achieve those goals is critical to your success!
Attend your own IEP meeting and let your voice be heard!
It is your life. Make sure you let others on your IEP team know what you want regarding independent living and ask for their help to make your preferences a reality.