Support for the young person with Autism, Intellectual Disabilities, Downs Syndrome and dozens of other related diagnoses generally continue through high school until he or she reaches 22 years of age.
Once again it is that time of the year for high school graduation. It is an exciting time as everyone prepares for the next step in life. Some will go off to college, some will go to trade schools, some will start to work immediately, and others will continue to ponder their life decisions. There’s nothing holding the young person with disabilities back after graduation. The one problem many families face is they simply do not know where to turn once graduation is complete. The school system may have shared some resources with the family, but the truth is the school systems may not understand what is available for the young person.
Often young people with disabilities want to get on with their lives. They have friends doing other things, and often that other thing starts with moving out of Mom and Dad’S house. People with disabilities are no different. They have the same desires and same dreams as anyone else, so it’s natural for them to want to move away when they see their friends doing it. Often it’s Mom and Dad who are also afraid. They have had the school district’s support for almost all of their child’s life, but now the school is finished with their job. Mom and Dad may have to work and may be unable to leave their child at home alone. Whether it’s a parent decision, or a child’s decision to move out, the fact remains that often moving out or into some program can be a positive life choice.
Fortunately in the Texarkana area we live within two states with great programs. Texas offers State Supported Living Centers, Intermediate Care Facilities (ICF), Home and Community Supports (HCS) and Texas Home, and Texas Home Living (TxHml). On the Arkansas side you have Human Development Centers, Intermediate Care Facilities (ICF), Group Homes, and the Medicaid Waiver Program (often simply called Waiver). Each program has strengths and weaknesses as outlined below:
State Supported Living Centers and Human Development Centers generally have large populations. They are usually looking to reduce populations rather than increase them due to federal mandates to downsize large institutional settings. However, if choices are limited these institutions can be an important starting point. They can continue to teach life skills needed to live independently.
ICF programs are considered to be smaller institutional settings. In Texas there are roughly eight hundred of these programs while in Arkansas there are about thirty. The ICF setting is usually set in a home in the community and houses six to twelve people with disabilities. The focus of the ICF is to help people get out and get involved in their communities. The ICF presents an opportunity for the young person to learn additional skills needed for independence in a small setting. The drawbacks can be waiting list or the requirement to live in a small home setting with other people.
HCS, TxHml, and Waiver programs are usually home based with three people living in a home, or even one person living alone with staff assisting as needed. These programs really are considered to be the best types because they are able to focus on the individual rather than a group as is often the case with larger settings. The drawback for these programs is the waiting list. HCS, TxHml and Waiver programs almost always have a long waiting list to get into them, and sometimes certain disabilities do not qualify for these programs.
In the Texarkana area there are no large institutions such as a State Supported Living Center or a Human Development Center. However, there are several great programs in the area to contact should you want more information. I operate a consulting company for small ICF programs in Texas and you can always contact me directly through my website at http://MyQIDP.com . You can contact any one of the following local providers directly through their websites:
Opportunities, Inc. serves early intervention, Waiver, vocational and group home settings: Arkansas and Texas http://www.oppinc.org/
New Horizons provides ICF services in several homes in Texarkana: Texas http://www.newhorizonstxk.com/
Community Healthcore has group home settings, HCS referrals, and can assist with searching for placement: Texas http://www.communityhealthcore.com/
Texarkana Resources provides vocational training in Texarkana: Arkansas http://www.texarkanaresources.org/
Arkansas Department of Human Services provides a list of Waiver and ICF providers acress the state as well as a list of Human Development Centers: http://humanservices.arkansas.gov/ddds/Pages/waiverServices.aspx