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For intellectually disabled people, who have in all likelihood already experienced a long educational and training process, the capability of finally moving into a more independent way of life is a valued goal. However, it remains a move that requires careful consideration, support, and empowerment. By promoting skills development and creating inclusive environments, intellectually disabled individuals can be assisted to establish independent and fulfilling lives.

Evaluating possibilities
Before any move can be made, there must be a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s capabilities, needs, and support requirements. This should cover areas such as daily living skills, communication abilities, social interactions, mobility, and healthcare needs. This information can be used to develop support plans tailored to the individual’s specific needs and goals. Every individual has unique strengths, abilities, and preferences. Take time to understand their goals, interests, and aspirations. It is vital and fair to involve intellectually disabled people in decision-making processes related to their living arrangements and support services.

Living and learning life skills
All through the growing and developmental phases, an intellectually disabled person must be prepared for ultimately managing on their own. Life skills are key to promoting
independence and autonomy. This may include skills such as cooking, cleaning, personal hygiene, budgeting, time management, and transportation. There must be patience with hands-on learning tasks, repetition, and gradual skills progression – and a wary eye on continually adapting teaching methods that suit an individual’s learning style and pace.

Building support
Surrounding the intellectually disabled individual should be a reliable constellation of people who are able to offer structured support and guidance through the challenges of independent living. This encompasses support workers, mentors, life coaches, and family members and friends who can provide assistance with tasks such as meal planning, grocery shopping, household chores, and managing finances. Regular check-ins and ongoing communication are essential to ensure an individual feels empowered and confident in their abilities going forward.

Finding the right living environment
Not every choice of normal living facilities may suit an intellectually disabled person. This does not mean that they cannot live independently, it simply means that the home of choice should be accessible and condusive to the level of independent living required for security and connection. This may involve making modifications to the home to accommodate mobility aids, sensory needs, or communication devices. There must be clear signage, visual cues, and organisational systems to help people navigate their living space independently.

Developing a community mindset
Living independently should not mean social isolation. Opportunities for inclusion and community integration through enthusiastic participation in social activities, recreational pursuits, and community events should always be seized upon. The development of meaningful relationships and connections with peers, neighbors, and community members must be encouraged. A sense of belonging and acceptance within the community are the keys to combatting social isolation and loneliness.

Learning to stand up and stand firm
How much does an intellectually disabled person know and understand their rights? People need to be able to advocate for their own needs, preferences, and rights. This is such an important aspect when leaving persons to manage on their own. There must be training on self-advocacy skills, assertiveness, and decision-making so that individuals are encouraged to voice their opinions, express their desires, and assert their autonomy in all aspects of their lives. By raising awareness, challenging stereotypes, and promoting disability rights, a culture of respect and equality can be engendered, regardless of any person’s abilities.

Including family, friends and caregivers
Smooth transition should aim at providing the kind of environment where intellectually disabled people can thrive, achieve goals, and lead meaningful lives. Invariably family, friends and carers are the closest people involved – and naturally they should be highly supportive in the process of integrating intellectually disabled individuals into independent living, providing access to the right resources and emotional support to help the family group as a whole adapt to the new situation and the challenges it may present.

Keeping up the strategy of continual learning
From day one there should always be support for ongoing learning and personal development. Intentionally reaching full potential is vital to making a successful transition to independent living. It’s important to research ahead of time opportunities for vocational training and skills-building programmes that align with the interests and career aspirations of an intellectually disabled person. Just as everyone should do – there must be a plan created for lifelong learning and exploration of new interests and hobbies.

The story of Sunfield Home

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