For children with special needs, the transition into adulthood can look a bit different. If you are the parent of a child with special needs, perhaps your child requires special care or is unable to live on their own, and instead of becoming an empty-nester your child may be living at home with you for a longer period. However, there are ways that you can help your child to live more independently and transition into adulthood even while living at home. With some simple home modifications, you can transform your house into a space that allows your adult special needs child to gain more independence and confidence, while maintaining the safety and support of living at home.
According to an Easterseals study, nearly 7 in 10 adults with disabilities live with their parent(s) or guardian, and only 17% live independently, compared to more than half of adult children without disabilities. Although parents of adult special needs children are less likely to be looking at helping their child move out of their home, there are other transitions and changes that can be made to help their child balance increased independence with the necessary ongoing care and safety. Each child or adult has their own unique needs and abilities, some requiring more care and modifications than others.
Take these steps to begin determining how you can help your child transition to adulthood with some simple home modifications:
1. Consider Your Child’s Individual Needs and Abilities
Just as each and every person is unique and different, the same applies to people with special needs and disabilities. Consider your child’s individual needs and abilities, and what sort of modifications may suit them best. If they are disabled and in a wheelchair, for example, then accessibility aids such as ramps, rails, and bathroom modifications could provide a lot more independence and mobility for them. Consider any physical needs your child has, and what steps could be made to make life a bit easier for them. Home security systems, emergency call buttons, and other supportive safety technology could provide the opportunity for more autonomy for your child.
Additionally, consider any intellectual and emotional needs your child may have. Assistive technology devices could aid in communication, accessibility, and daily functions. If your child has sensory needs, take those into consideration when planning out your home modifications, as well.
2. Consider the Space You are Working With
Other than financial constraints, one of the biggest things to consider is the space you are working with. Think about your home and how you can work with what you have to make modifications that will serve your child and create more autonomy for them. If there is space in their bedroom, consider adding a couch or other simple living room furniture so they can have their own living space. If there is an extra bathroom, perhaps you can designate it as your child’s own personal, private bathroom. Even adding a mini fridge and microwave, dorm style, to your child’s bedroom – if appropriate – can provide them with a sense of greater independence. If you have a split floor plan, perhaps you can designate one floor as your child’s living quarters so that they have privacy and independence while still living in the same house. The same could be done with a finished garage or basement, guest house, or home addition. In-home intercoms can be useful in situations like these to allow for easy communication.
3. Consider Renovating or Relocating
For some families, it may be an option to renovate their home or add on to it, while for others it may be best to relocate completely. While most empty-nesters may look to downsize, parents of adult children with special needs may actually look into upsizing or adding on to create more room for their adult child to continue living at home. Of course, these changes can be expensive. When you are unable to finance your renovations or need financial assistance to make it a possibility, there are grants available such as the Accessibility Modifications Program which offers up to $15,000 to families who qualify.
Other considerations that can provide your adult special needs child with increased autonomy and independence as they transition into adulthood include:
- Private or secondary entrance
- Key to the house
- Household chores and responsibilities
- Safety features such as stand-to-enter tubs and showers
- Introducing budgeting, grocery shopping, meal planning, and hygiene and nutrition education
- Meditation space or mini at-home gym
- Secure boundaries, fences, gates, and locks for safety
- Medical technology and devices
- Adaptive clothing which allows your child to more easily dress and care for themselves
Work with your child as much as possible as you plan for their future and contemplate modifications that you can make to your home to make their transition to adulthood as smooth as possible. Allowing and encouraging your child to take on an active role in this process will increase their sense of independence and will help you determine the best ways to make changes. For more support and resources, check out our page on How to Get Services.