Supported living is a service model264 based on principles that emphasize a person’s choice, self-determination and community integration (Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disability). Supported living can be in a private home, apartment or in a group home or apartment complex operated by a private agency. Options generally are guided by the individual’s lifestyle choices, but are influenced by the reality of the level of funding that is available.
The supported living movement has aligned itself with person centered planning and consumer choice. This should result in a fundamental twist in the way services are provided and decisions made about supported living choices. From the person-centered perspective, the individual with the disability (consumer) is seen as the employer who pays the vendor (supported living providers) to make available the services the consumer/employer has determined are necessary. The consumer, his family and supported living workers should work cooperatively to determine and plan these services. This process, however, may require a shift in thinking and can be difficult for some agencies or providers that are not familiar with the person-centered planning concept.
While it is understandable that changing one’s perspective can be difficult, most people do acknowledge the positive results and personal growth that occurs when individuals are supported to make personal choices related to their own adult living. Opportunity to make these life decisions is the core of self-determination. Individuals with ASD should be supported as they learn to direct these decisions in their own lives based on their life style preferences and the available resources. Supporting a person with a disability to make these choices can be complex depending on the individual’s cognitive and decision-making skills, the skills of the supported living workers and the available resources. Continued efforts to develop more effective services and expertise in this area are required in order to assist individuals with autism to realize a person-centered life.