4 ways you can help your loved one with intellectual disabilities live out their dreams

A woman with a developmental disability working with a mentor

Dreams belong to everyone, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But sometimes individuals with I/DD can use a little help in imagining the possibilities and making those dreams come true. 

Here are four ways that you can help your loved one stretch their limits. 

Encourage them get a driver’s license

Getting that little card and all that comes with it is a right of passage for so many, but for people with a disability, it may feel out of reach. But that is not necessarily the case. With proper instruction and support it can happen, even if your loved one isn’t a teenager anymore. Having a driver’s license and eventually a car is an amazing way to encourage independence.

Help them live on their own

This can be a challenging one for parents who are used to having their son or daughter at home, with many emotions for all involved. But it ultimately can be the right choice. Start by encouraging them to do tasks around the house. From there, build on their chore list until they feel confident they could fully do these things on their own. Help them choose a home that meets their needs and is affordable. Consider what supports they may need to help them get by. And visit often!

Send them to college

A university experience is definitely an option for a person with a developmental disability. Recently, AbleLight College at Concordia University Wisconsin began its fall semester with a record enrollment. This two-year program teaches young adults work and life skills to help with whatever may come next. What’s more, it integrates them with traditional college students in a way that demonstrates they’re more alike than different. Take some time to explore programs that could be a fit.

Empower them to get a job

If you’re going to be independent, you’re going to need money. That’s where a job comes in. There are many employers who hire people with disabilities, and organizations that help make that possible. And it’s smart business. Studies show that accommodating workers with a disability is inexpensive and these employees can be among the most loyal and productive. Best of all, it gives the person with a disability more dignity and a sense of self-worth that is hard to match. (A note of caution that earnings shouldn’t exceed income limits that many people with disabilities need to maintain.)

Certainly not everyone with an intellectual or developmental disability can achieve the above goals. Some will not be able to achieve the level of independence that is required, and will always require more care. But a dream need not be huge to be meaningful. Small, incremental steps toward doing something new can be incredibly rewarding.

How will you help your loved one make a dream come true, starting today?