A Resource Guide for Living Independently

Moving out on your own can feel very intimidating — especially if you don t feel totally confident that you can handle it. And youth with disabilities who are about to move out into their own place are often bombarded with thousands of "You betters" from their parents or staff resources. This can make the transition even more difficult.

Maybe what could make a difference is a handy little resource guide! How about one that both prepares youth for living independently, and shows them how easy it can really be?

When I first heard about the opportunity to work on such a book under the guidance of the Canadian Abilities Foundation, I was thrilled to take charge of the project. I believe that many people with disabilities are not fully prepared to live independently. I wanted to try and empower youth with the knowledge they would need in order to live independently. I felt honoured — and myself empowered — with the opportunity to inspire others.

This resource guide, entitled "On My Own," is designed to prepare people with disabilities for the transition to living independently. It covers everything from finding a place and setting up, to throwing great parties, to getting that stain out of the carpet AFTER the party!

Much of the book’s valuable information and advice was collected through a "mega-page" questionnaire on living independently that was completed by an advisory panel of adults with disabilities — people who had "been there, done that!"

We also wanted "On My Own" to supply the kind of tips and household hints you might get from Mom, but without the long-distance phonecalls! So the book includes ideas on doing laundry, getting rid of ants, table settings, and quick-and-easy recipes for one. And a special reference section at the back provides lots of phone numbers and addresses of disability organizations and other resources you might find helpful. We intend for this book to become a valuable and much-referred-to addition to your new household!

The chapters take you on the route to developing a fully independent and satisfying lifestyle. For example, a chapter on social skills is presented before one on seeking employment. I learned on my first high-school co-op placement that good interpersonal skills are required in order to succeed at any job.

The first part of the book discusses the decision to move out, covering topics from your readiness to move out, to what setting you would like to live in. There are responsibilities you must face if you wish to live on your own. For example, you might have to learn to deal with loneliness after living with your family or other people for so many years. The book offers coping strategies: First, you can start thinking about your goals in life and how to accomplish them. Second, if you can learn to consider yourself a friend, the less lonely you will be.

The book also shows people how they can move into and furnish a new home. For instance, it describes four things you need in order to move: transportation (many cars, or a van); assistance (lots of family or friends who can help); the right attitude (patience and a sense of humour); and rewards (pizza and pop for the folks doing all the moving!).

Another chapter deals with the ever-important issue of safety in the home. Anybody who lives on his or her own has to be aware of safety and what to do in an emergency situation. The chapter covers basics such as never opening your door to people whom you don t know, and always telling a friend or roommate where you re going and when you’ll be back. Also included in this chapter are home and personal security enhancement tricks: sneaky little tricks you can use to boost your safety. For example, if you don’t want people to know you re on vacation, you can have a friend leave car tracks in your snowed-in driveway; you can put your lights on timers to turn them on and off; or you can have friends visit or stay over. Pretty sneaky, eh?

I feel that I have grown a lot during my experience compiling this book. As I developed the outline, I began to analyze many people with disabilities, including myself. I thought about who could make the transition easily, and who I thought would have a tougher time with it.

The advisory committee to this book convinced me that I was ready to live independently. As I read their answers to my survey, I realized that if you know what you re doing, living independently is nothing to be afraid of! And if you don’t know what you’re doing, "On My Own" is a resource that will help you learn.

Right now, I m living in university residence completing my Bachelor of Arts in English. I ll be here for another two and a half years. However, that doesn t mean that I m not thinking about moving into my own place. This all goes back to a section of the book on goal setting… finding a nice place to live will be MY next goal!

("On My Own: A Resource Guide for Living Independently" might be the perfect gift for someone you know who is thinking about living independently! To order, send $15 with your name and address to: Canadian Abilities Foundation, 489 College St., Ste. 501, Toronto, ON, M6G 1A5.)