Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “America means freedom, opportunity, [and] power.” Americans hold freedom and independence near and dear. In honor of Independence Day, Adelante is showcasing our independent living program that helps people with disabilities gain more independence in their lives.

What is Independent Living?

Independent Living, also known as Customized In-Home Supports, is one of the many services Adelante provides to help people with disabilities. Our Independent Living service is designed to support people to learn in and explore the community while living in their own home or apartment. Participants might live alone or with family or roommates. Further, they might still be living with their parents but are prepping to live in their own apartment. Either way, Independent Living helps people gain the skills they need to successfully live on their own. Adelante provides this service in the Albuquerque metro area and in Valencia County.

An independent living client of Adelante walks on a treadmill while his support staff watches.
Taking care of your health is an important part of living independently. Adelante supports Independent Living clients in getting to the gym and to doctor’s appointments.

Independent Living is Important to People with Disabilities

Independence, self-determination, and freedom are important to almost everyone. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that people with developmental or intellectual disabilities (DD/ID) have the will and ability to live on their own. People with disabilities participating in Adelante Independent Living make their own choices. In turn, they have greater autonomy in their lives. Furthermore, through making these choices, clients gain confidence and become stronger self-advocates. They better understand their needs and preferences, improving their communication skills and determining their life’s trajectory. People choose when they get up and go to bed, what to eat, and learn to set an alarm to get to work on time. People learn what works well for them and what they enjoy. Their support staff is there to guide and help people learn from missteps. People who participate in Independent Living also learn to work with others. For example, Ron, one of Adelante’s Independent Living staff members, relayed that his clients take turns choosing where to go on group outings and at which restaurant they would like to eat.

Living independently comes with plenty of rewards and satisfaction. On the flip side, it comes with challenges that can be difficult. Adulting is hard, as they say.  If you’re not familiar with the term, adulting was coined in recent years to celebrate the accomplishment of taking care of life’s responsibilities. For example, maintaining health and fitness, booking doctor appointments, creating budgets, paying bills, grocery shopping, and maintaining your car and home. These challenges can boost confidence in so many ways. They can also be overwhelming for anyone. For adults with ID/DD, these challenges are even greater. That’s where Adelante support comes in.

Individualized Support

An Adelante Independent Living disability services client poses next to the pie she baked.
Learning to cook is an important skill to have to live independently. Whitney is learning more recipes and baked a delicious pie.

Adelante tailors the support provided to meet each person’s needs. This support may include training on banking, grocery shopping, accessing community activities, finding available resources, or learning life skills, to name a few. Overall, if it involves living, Adelante can help with it. In the beginning, goals and ideas are discussed with clients. Support teams such as family members, guardians, and case managers also might be part of those discussions. From the start, Adelante wants to make sure we are supporting each individual’s goals and help the person create support activities based on those goals. One client, for example, may want to learn to cook. Therefore, the goal might be to try a new recipe once a week and the activities may include finding a recipe, grocery shopping, and support while the cooking happens. Another client may have a goal of improving their weight or endurance. In that case, the goal might be to go to the gym twice a week. No day is ever the same for Independent Living support staff!

Independent Living Services Also Help Develop Social and Community Skills

A big part of Independent Living services is helping people with disabilities to be part of the community and learn to navigate the tasks and social norms that go along with that. Interactions with people are important, too. Clients go to community dances, out to lunch, to Isotopes games, and attend holiday events. From those activities, each person has an opportunity to learn how to talk with other people, how to handle money, how to order food, and more. They also learn about social skills like waiting patiently to get through the winter crowds at River of Lights, or the times to clap and cheer and the times to be quieter at an Isotopes game.

In turn, people with disabilities being visible and part of the community is an important part of integration. Watching a person with a disability interact and take part in social outings reminds all community members that everyone belongs and each individual is unique. For example, some Adelante clients recently went to Japanese Kitchen to eat. Other patrons and restaurant employees got to see that people had their own unique personalities and tastes. Most importantly, they learned that people with disabilities can support themselves in many ways, like paying for a nice lunch out.

Independent Living staff at Adelante have taken clients camping and on vacation, too. Some clients receive help entering into local art shows to showcase their talents, and participate in activities like special orchestra.

Independent Living Clients sit at a teppanyaki grill and watch the chef with their Independent Living staff member.

The Impact of Independence

Through practicing and learning how to make choices and decisions, Adelante clients gain freedom and independence, often determining a new direction for their lives. In fact, some have gone on to employment and even purchased their own homes. The impact is shown in the skills each person learns. Each person learning and growing is a great outcome. Positive changes also happen in the community when the public gets to see how capable people with disabilities can be.

Independent Living is just one of Adelante’s Community Living services. Adelante also offers 24/7 Supported Living homes for people who need more care. Family Living is also available for people who live with family, but want to set their own goals and determine more of their own lives. Each service is tailored to meet individual client needs.

To learn more about Adelante’s Community Living services or other disability programs and resources email ExplorePrograms@GoAdelante.org.