Intellectually disabled people living alone and fending for themselves is, for many people, a pipe dream – or at least very difficult to accomplish. However, planning, preparing, and facing the challenges as early as possible, can bring about both positive opportunity and extraordinary gain. Putting fundamental steps in place well in advance can create a satisfying life of relative independence and achievement.

Depending on diagnosis, and the support resources available, independent living can be planned before the education years are completed. Intellectually disabled adults may find themselves no longer supported by services that were specifically designed for children, such as school education programmes. They may also find that family members who used to care and advocate for them, have passed away, and there is a need to take the reins more tightly into their own hands.

The road less travelled

•It must be recognised that independence is of key importance to many adults with intellectual disabilities, and some may want to enable themselves to cope as fully on their own as possible, to do things for themselves, and make their own decisions.

•The perspectives of intellectually disabled people should be taken into serious consideration, allowing them to determine as far as possible, their own support needs and how they would like this support to be provided.

•There are usually community-based resources especially geared to provide help with various activities of daily living. These resources may include funding for a safe place to live, and programmes focused on building, securing and maintaining as much independence for an individual as possible.

•While some intellectually disabled people may prefer to live more securely in a group care facility, depending on abilities, there are those who may be able to live on their own with some assistance – and these people should be assisted to do so to the fullest extent.

•Common challenges independent intellectually disabled people may face, include: communication issues, public policies, and physical challenges – all of which must be taken into consideration and planned for ahead of time.

•There are a number of resources available for adults with intellectual abilities who wish to stay at home and look after themselves with an achievable level of independence; these resources encompass: in-home care and assistance, developmental programmes geared to enhance the quality of life at home, and practices to induce a greater sense of independence.

•Intellectually disabled adults may require financial assistance through state health care programmes or various NPO’s and specialised organisations that can assist them to live where they may feel secure, happy and most comfortable.

•Key tactics to enhance participation and social inclusion, should include encouraging intellectually disabled individuals to forge stronger links within their local community, with the aim of increasing support networks.

•Social networks of those with mild intellectual disability are relatively small, and have been found to mostly include family and professional staff who can be relied upon for emotional and instrumental support, and who are therefore highly valued and appreciated. These relationships are based on strong qualities such as: trust, honesty, patience, a genuine interest and a caring attitude.

•There is increasing recognition that people with intellectual disability are full citizens with the same inalienable rights as non-disabled persons, and therefore they should be supported in making their own decisions and participating equally in society.

Skills and capabilities to be nurtured from as young as possible

•Independent living skills
•Personal hygiene
•Dressing and clothing care
•Health awareness and care
•Shopping, cooking and nutrition
•Domestic management and home safety
•Financial management
•Developing an understanding of the importance of personal growth
•Learning to solve problems.

The story of Sunfield Home

Twenty years ago, Chris and Lynne Bennett, parents of a young girl with Down Syndrome, pursued their dream of establishing a home for their daughter and other intellectually disabled young adults in the Western Cape. Together with other parents, they founded the Sunfield Home in Wellington, providing a loving and nurturing environment for over 100 residents and day-care adult individuals.

Each individual is screened to evaluate their strengths and allocate activities according to their abilities. A protective workshop has been established where contract work is undertaken, as well as arts and crafts activities. An employment scheme has also been developed and as a result permanent and successful positions have been found within the surrounding wine and cheese industries.

Find out more about us at: www.sunfieldhome.co.za

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