Options for Your Loved One in the I/DD Community, According to 5 Professionals 

These 5 Professionals in the I/DD community share free resources to help better understand options for your loved one 

1. Identifying Systemic Inequities & Areas for DEI Opportunities in the Placement Process for I/DD Individuals

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Intersectionality plays a major role in fair housing issues with particular emphasis on a person of color with a disability. Housing Providers like Housing Choices, address this housing access issue in South Bay’s expensive housing market and identify other barriers that people of color face with a disability. These barriers range from low income to higher rates of housing cost burden. Kalisha Webster, Senior Housing Advocate at Housing Choices, puts spotlight on the  major barrier of increased rent burden. Webster points out that Black people with a disability are more likely to experience rent burden than a Black person without a disability. In California, Article 34 and “NIMBY”, which is not in my backyard, have made it increasingly difficult to create better access to affordable housing. These have been shown to exclude people with disabilities from certain communities that are rich in resources. Living in an area that is rich in resources is important because it provides the opportunity to live independently through easy access to transportation and other amenities. Ways to advocate for change can look like reaching out to your community leaders or going to public meetings and voicing the need for housing access for persons with disabilities. 

People of color with a disability experience increased barriers when it comes to housing access. A couple of these major barriers are having low income or dealing with rent burden. Housing Choices supports clients dealing with these sorts of issues by helping them connect to and maintain housing. Bring this housing access issue to your community leaders and public meetings. 

2. Housing & Care Obstacles of Individuals with Severe Autism

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Jill Escher, President of National Council on Severe Autism (NCSA), explains that Autism is a diverse condition meaning that some diagnosed with this can go on to be in the medical, law, or academic field while others experience functional and cognitive impairments. The latter may sometimes have complex behaviors or other comorbid medical conditions. The autism population has had tremendous growth over the years which raises the question what the implications for that increase in trend are. We are seeing a crisis in that the astronomical growth of the population coupled with 90% living with their families highlights the need for more housing opportunities. The different living options outside of the family home include owning/renting a property with help brought in, group homes or licensed residential care facilities, the family LLC, adult foster care and intermediate care facilities. The lack of adequate facilities and staffing shortages make it difficult for those with severe autism to find proper housing and care. A potential resource that people can turn to besides regional centers is the Housing Authorities Housing Choice Voucher but they can be hard to come by as well. There’s a multitude of options parents can do to help advocate for their children. Options include joining a board committee, working with an organization and reaching out to your representatives. The NCSA also gives the option on their website to join their National Grassroots Network.

The Autism population is incredibly diverse with each individual needing a different level of support. The increased growth of the population in combination with the lack of adequate facilities has made it challenging to obtain proper care. There are residential care facilities to look into but joining the voucher waiting list now might be something to look into.  

3. Providing Resources & Employment Opportunities to I/DD Individuals

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Hope Services is based in Silicon Valley and serves those with disabilities at all ages. Their goal is to help improve their quality of life. Specifically they offer early intervention services, supportive employment, behavioral health and senior programs. Chip Huggins, President and CEO of Hope Services, shares a story of an individual at Whole Foods who managed to use their resources and get great results. This individual started as a bagger and made his way up to becoming head cashier. Hope Services works with both the individual and the corporation to ensure there is a good fit. Huggins receives many feedbacks from individuals receiving employment opportunities that say they love coming to work everyday and it’s a dream for them at locations like Hope’s thrift stores. A big takeaway of people with developmental disabilities learning skills at work is the ability to interact with the community and feel appreciated. To see if this could be the right type of service for your loved one, you could visit the Regional Center for a referral. There’s also more information on the Hope Services website. Folks can support Hope Services by donating, shopping at their thrift stores, or volunteering. 

Individuals with a disability who are employed find value and joy in what they do. Hope Services has seen many success stories of individuals obtaining their dream role and even receiving promotions. Interaction and being out in the community has shown to provide notable improvements in behavioral issues. 

4. Advocacy & Choice for I/DD Individuals

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The diversity of the disabled community means that there needs to be a wide array of residential and vocational services to choose from. Scott Mendell, board chairman from Together for Choice (TFC), explains that there is not a “one size fits all solution” for what settings will meet an individual’s needs. While some have argued against big settings, campuses like Misericordia prove otherwise and have long waiting lists because of the quality of continuum of care they provide that allow individuals more care and autonomy. Other settings that have shown individuals to thrive include, farmsteads, small homes, intermediate care facilities, and intentional communities. TFC advocates for the I/DD community by voicing to the government the importance of funding these different settings and vocational types. We can all be better advocates by engaging with officials at the local, state, and federal levels. A good place to learn about the different housing options for those with IDD or physical disabilities that are more independent in nature is TFC’s website that has a list of residential care facilities throughout the country. 

Those in the I/DD community have different needs and settings they thrive on so it’s important that a one size fits all solution is not applied to the whole population. Speak with officials from different governmental levels and show them how the setting your child lives in has been paramount to their wellbeing. This helps give you the opportunity to then reach out to them if a bill comes into congress that could impact your child. 

5. Neurodiversity Trends in Companies and Jobs

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The word neurodiversity can be broken down into two parts. Neuro means the brain and diversity defined as a population with different backgrounds and perspectives. Neurodiverse conditions include autism, dyslexia, ADHD, and psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression. The Stanford Neurodiversity Project embraces diversity and believes that awareness is the foundation of doing that. Dr. Fung, Director of the Stanford Neurodiversity Project, explains that in addition to the project getting people to learn the value of neurodiversity, a mentoring program is available as well for Stanford students that are neurodiverse. The project helps autistic individuals find work and keep employment. The neurodiversity at work program also provides employers with information on people on the spectrum and how to continue to work with them. Organizations that have a specialized work program have reported high productivity and retention rates from neurodiverse individuals that could be largely attributed to neurodiverse friendly environments. For companies interested in building out a neurodiverse program to support inclusivity, Dr. Fung suggests sending an email to stanfordneurodiversityproject@stanford.edu. The Stanford Neurodiversity Project will be holding their third virtual Stanford Neurodiversity Summit from October 23 to 25, 2022. The summit will include discussions on how neurodiversity makes society better along with some personal and professional stories from neurodiverse individuals. 

A neurodiverse friendly environment enables neurodiverse individuals to thrive in their career field. Organizations have seen higher productivity and retention rates with this implemented. There are options out there like Stanford’s neurodiverse at work program that supports individuals in obtaining work and sustaining employment. 

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