Independent Living Skills and Cognitive Disabilities: Reduce Anxiety, Solve Problems

Posts tagged ‘self advocacy’

Disabilities and Transition After High School: Developing Independence at the Community College, Even If I’m Not Taking Classes

English: Austin Community College Northridge C...

English: Austin Community College Northridge Campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay, new graduate. You’ve finished high school, and your classmates, at least most of them, are going on to college.

You say to yourself, I want to go to college! Of course, you want to do what your friends are doing, right? It’s understandable that you don’t want to stay at home while everyone else is having a life. You want to see and be seen… BUT you’re not sure if you’re ready for homework again, and honestly, maybe you’re a little nervous about college classes.

Many graduates attend the local community college to get their start. Even if you’re not quite ready to take academic classes, there are lots of things you can do on campus to see your high school buddies and to find out whether you want to continue your education. You might even make some new friends.

Here are some ideas that you might consider doing:

1. To get started, walk around the campus. You can check with the Admissions Office about scheduling a formal tour, or you can grab a map and walk around at your own pace. Start with the Student Center because this is where a lot of students will be hanging out between classes. Go around lunchtime and plan to eat there. You might see students on laptops, watching the news, or even playing chess.

2. Use the campus map to see what buildings you might want to check out.

• Are you an artist? Find out where the art classes are. You might see student work on display or a quiet hangout spot that you like.
• Do you like to walk? Maybe there is a track or fitness center.
• Do you like libraries? There’s probably one available. You might not be able to use the computers there unless you have a student ID card, but you can still look at magazines and work on your own laptop that you bring.
• Do you like plants? See if your college has a greenhouse. You might be able to volunteer to wash pots, pick off dead leaves from plants, water plants, or sweep up leaves. Ask if there is a volunteer program or community gardening club at the college.
• Do you want to buy a shirt or cap from the college? Visit the bookstore. They’ll help you out. First, though, set aside money for lunch, the bus, or other things you might have already planned to buy. Put it in another pocket so that you won’t accidentally spend it on the wrong thing. Then see if you have money to spend. If you didn’t bring enough money, you can always come back later to buy something that you like.

3. Check out the bulletin boards or other notices that are posted.

• What student events are coming up? Movies? Bake sales? Student organization fair? The community can often attend.
• There may be a theater performance, musical group, or speaker that interests you, though these will probably cost money.

4. If you’re going to return to campus on your own, make sure you know how to be safe.

• If you use an elevator, know where the button is in case the elevator gets stuck.
• Study the signs that tell where to go in case of a weather emergency or how to call for help if you get nervous or lost.
• If you’re walking across a parking lot or roadway, use crosswalks and watch for cars. Drivers may be texting even though they’re not supposed to do that, so you have to watch out for yourself.
• Walk in the well-travelled areas. If you are around several people, you’ll be able to ask for help more easily if you are confused or nervous.
• Know where the emergency phones are if you need help.
• It’s okay to say hi to someone your age. After all, part of college is meeting people. Just say hi and then keep walking or doing what you were doing. That’s what people do when they don’t know each other well but they want to be friendly. If they invite you to play ping pong or start up a conversation in the coffeeshop, that’s fine, too. Just don’t go with them when they leave. They are probably going to class or home, and that’s not where you are scheduled, so say goodbye.
• Don’t ever go with someone to their car or to a private room unless you know them and unless you’ve told someone else where you are going beforehand. If it’s on your schedule and your parents or staff person knows where you are, it’s okay.

See, there are lots of things that you can do on a college campus without ever signing up for a class. Community colleges have a lot to offer the community, and you are part of the community, so join in!

Also, see:

(c) 2013 Smart Steps, LLC

Is Independence in My Child’s Future?

English: Two adolescent couples at the 2009 We...

My Child is Growing Up! What Can I Do to Prepare for the Future?

Yes, children with disabilities do grow up. Sometimes we enjoy (or grow accustomed to) the interests, behaviors, and quirks that our child has. Sometimes we forget that they, too, will grow bigger and older, and some behaviors can stand in his or her way of being accepted by peers, getting a job, or having independence.Schools focus on academic skills due to pressures of standardized testing and No Child Left Behind requirements.At the same time, self advocacy and social skills are equally important in employment, social settings, and family life. Eventually, he or she will need to interact with a roommate, co-workers, and friends. Let’s get more specific with a few concrete examples.

Sample questions to consider when planning for independent living:

  • Does my child hug everyone without checking to see if a hug is okay?
  • Does my child order his or her own meals in restaurants?
  • Is my child a guest in our home or an equal member of the family with responsibilities that increase each year?
  • Is there some other behavior that will not look ‘cute’ in 10 years?

You may be thinking now, “Okay, as a parent, I get it. I realize that my child is getting older and I need to raise the bar so that he (or she) can get a job and have as much independence as possible. But how? It’s a struggle to get through the day most days.” Glad you asked.

Routines are hard to break, and it’s sometimes difficult to know when your child might be ready to be more flexible. Some habits will always be a part of your child’s repertoire as a calming technique or as a way to cope with sensitivities. Only you and your child know the difference between what is necessary and what new challenges might be considered. Seek out other parents or experts for guidance on this if you are not sure.

Steps in making relatively low-stress changes:

  1. Write a social story or a script about the behavior that you want to see. (It’s important that this be in writing and pictures rather than a conversation. See the links below regarding social stories and a couple of smartphone apps for more ideas.)
  2. Start talking about the change ahead of time and schedule a day when you can agree that the new behavior will start. Reread the social story as often as needed to integrate the concept, reviewing periodically.
  3. When you see an effort, celebrate in a way that your child or young adult will appreciate. A step in the right direction is just fine; we are not after perfection.

With a relaxed and positive approach, yes, your child can learn more mature behavior with less stress than it first seemed possible. Let us know how you’re doing.

Smart Steps (TM) LLC (c) 2013

Transition to Independent Living: What Happens After High School?

Students gather on the sidewalk in front of th...

Students gather on the sidewalk in front of the middle school after school on a Friday afternoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Individuals with disabilities go through many transitions in their school career as they progress through elementary, middle school and high school. At each stage, teams discuss how to make the transition as smooth as possible. What is expected at the next level? Will teachers understand his or her needs? How can we make it less stressful?Even more worrisome to some families might be… What happens after high school?Transition Planning Begins Early

Beginning in the middle school years, the IEP team plans for adulthood by writing transition goals related to education, work, and independent living. Transition goals are meant to help the team focus on the big picture as they write IEP goals.

Often, however, IEP goals are written to target state assessment objectives or class schedules. This is to be expected because schools are accountable for student learning as measured by assessments and high school credits. There’s one saving grace, though…

If IEP goals, including transition goals, have not been met by the time the student graduates from high school, he or she can receive transition services from the school district.

Transition Services Offered in the Community 

When transition services are offered through community-based instruction, students have more opportunities to apply skills in community settings, which in turn develop independence and confidence. This is a rich time for learning.

For more information, see

or this article from Easter Seals:

Smart Steps(TM), LLC (c)2013

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