Independent Living

Independent Living is defined as “those skills or tasks that contribute to the successful independent functioning of an individual in adulthood” (Cronin, 1996). These skills or tasks can be categorized into the major areas related to daily lives, such as housing, health, personal care, transportation, and social and recreational opportunities. While most teams identify independent living skills (e.g. cooking, personal hygiene, money skills, and street safety) as life skills, there are additional areas considered life skills. Life skills instruction also can include self-determination and self-advocacy which will be covered in the Empowering Students module key component. Independent living is an area teams need to address during a student's secondary transition process and provide services designed to prepare the student for their future. The areas below may be considered when teams discuss independent living.

The Independent Living component provides information and resources supporting independent living after high school. Content covered in this component area will include living arrangements, health, personal care, community and transportation, and social and recreation. There are related learning activities in the form of downloadable print material, online documents, videos, and other resources to improve understanding of the definitions of each of these areas, and the associated needs of individuals pursuing independent living after high school. The audience for this transition component includes families, individuals, and professionals. It is important for transition teams to have an understanding of the discussed aspects of independent living when creating IEP goals. It is also necessary for families and individuals to have access to information and resources which promote independent living.  

Intended Audience: families, individuals, and professionals

Resources: Independent Living 

Research Support: Independent Living

Independent Living Q & A

Independent Living

Living Arrangements: Researching and planning for living arrangements involves where a student will potentially live. Some students may transition to supported housing offered through insurance or Medicaid waivers. Others may plan to live with family members. Some students may move to an apartment or dormitory alone or with roommates.

Personal and Health Care: Personal care needs usually include hygiene, bathing, dressing, grocery shopping, meal preparation, laundry, exercising, and healthy living. Teams need to discuss if students will need personal care services, activities, and/or attendants (which usually cost money but in some instances can be covered through health insurance). 


Community and Transportation: Determining how a student will access their community to work, shop, and enjoy the social and recreational opportunities (mass transit/public transportation, shared rides, Dial-a-ride, private transportation, or independent driving or walking). Transportation is an important skill that may need to be taught. It continues to be one of the greatest barriers to employment, higher education, post-secondary training, and community integration.

Social and Recreation: Having friends and belonging to a community is an important part of adult life and a student’s self-determined decisions should guide their social and recreation goals. It is important that these students have opportunities to access social and leisure activities in natural, integrated settings as they explore preferences while yet in school. Sexual health is an important topic to address, and more information can be found on START’s Sexual Health and Puberty website.


Post Secondary Preparation for Independent Living

Measurable post-secondary goals for independent living are required, when appropriate. A precursor to independent living involves learning self-determination and social skills. When students are able to identify their goals and effectively communicate with others in a variety of settings, they can achieve greater success. These skills also impact the type of housing most suited for the individual. 

Related Learning Activities: 

  1. Access and review the IRIS Center Post Secondary Preparation: Independent Living web page.
    • Review the sections including self-determination and the self-determination checklist, social skills information and interpersonal skills checklist provided on the page.
  2. Access the Autism Speaks Putting the Pieces Together: Options for Housing & Models for Residential Supports page. 
    • Read the information on the page related to housing options, models for support, services in the community, and services and institutional settings, and more.
    • Download and review the Autism Speaks Housing and Residential Supports Tool Kit. This discusses funding for housing, how to search for housing, entitlement for services, and more.
  3. In considering the resources from the IRIS Center and Autism speaks above, think of 1-2 students in your transition program. What self-determination and interpersonal skills do they currently have based on each of these checklists. What type of living arrangements seem to be suited for each of the students? What living situation do the students desire for the future? How can this vision for living become a reality for the students?

Transition and Independence

Comprehensive reading and resources to provide educators and other members of the transition team with practical information and easy access to resources to prepare youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for a successful transition from school to adulthood. It provides practical information on how to utilize existing best practices to meet the needs of Independent Living.

Related Learning Activities: 

  1. Review the Columbia Regional Inclusive Services (CRIS Oregon) website.
  2. Download the Columbia Regional Inclusive Services Transition Toolkit (which can be downloaded at this link, or from the site). 
    1. Review domains of independent living and independence in the document: Leisure and recreation, home maintenance and personal care, community participation, transportation/mobility, money management, personal safety and health care, communication and interpersonal relationships, and self-determination. Checklists are also available for reference.
  3. How can these skills be targeted for 1-2 specific transition-aged students? Can skills be identified for school and home in the START passport or other tool?  
  4. Decide on two students and 3-4 goals for gaining independence.

Health Care and Independence

Health care considerations are very important during the transition to adulthood period. It can be helpful to bring these considerations forward as part of planning for independent living. The following activity is related to the health care transition.

Related Learning Activities:

  1. Go to the Got Transition Youth and Young Adults page
  2. Review and download Got Transition Turning 18 and What it Means to You.
  3. Review and download the infographic: Got Transition Do You Want to Learn More About Transitioning to Adult Health Care?
  4. Access the Got Transition Health Care Transition Quiz
  5. Print or download the resources above and become familiar with the tools.
  6. Share the information with 1-2 transition-aged students and their families to assure they are considering the responsibilities and actions needed for health care at age of majority, including transitioning from a pediatrician to a primary care doctor.

Independence Tools

The following are useful tools for students and educators can use toward increasing student independence.

Related Learning Activities: 

  1. Review the Adolescent autonomy checklist, which is a list of Activities of Daily Living to assess a student's current level of independence.
  2. Review The Arc’s Self-Determination Scale | For youth with cognitive disabilities, a student self-report measure of self-determination designed primarily for use by, and normed with, adolescents with cognitive and developmental disabilities.
  3. START’s Independence Data Sheet can be used to collect data and analyze improvements on performance for specific tasks/routines at school, at home, and in the community.

Family Engagement

Page last modified November 22, 2022