A Mom opens up about empowering sons’ independence

25 year old twin boys with autism

Editor’s note: The following guest post is from Patti Van Arsdale, a parent of two young adults who recently moved into AbleLight Village in Victoria, Minn.

‘Scary and exciting all at the same time’

I am the Mom of 25-year-old twin boys who have autism. Since their graduation from transitions a few years ago my husband and I had been looking into the possibility of them moving out on their own one day. 

We knew that they would always need people or helpers by their side from time to time to support them, and different “tools” to help them be successful. We also knew that one day we wouldn’t be around to help them in their day-to-day roles, so we wanted to start looking for places for them to live with our guidance NOW to help them gain their independence.

We worked on independent living skills at home: Making simple meals, washing dishes, simple cleaning, and learning how to do laundry. The pride in their faces when they could do some of these jobs on their own and take care of some of their own responsibilities was great to see. It made me see that they were ready to go out on their own with our help as they continue to grow into young adults.

As we got closer to getting their own place to rent, we bought a few items to get them excited about this new beginning. We got new and used furniture that would make it feel like their own place. We had checklists for them to use to make sure they didn’t forget to do things once on their own: brush teeth, put on deodorant, take showers…

We were fortunate to find a safe and comforting place to rent at AbleLight Village in Victoria, which only made the transition from our house to their new apartment easier. At AbleLight Village there are apps to control the lights and locks, which appealed to us. The boys loved to control the lights from their phones while I liked being able to go to the app and see if the doors were all locked up for the night. The mixture of seniors over 55 and the young adults with disabilities as residents works well. It is a nice complement of wisdom from the older adults to help the younger adults and the kindness and helping hands from both young and old when needed.

Twin brothers with developmental disabilities have a safe and loving home in Minnesota

The Victoria area gave us a secure, small-town feeling, with AbleLight Village just blocks away from the main street where you could take a stroll down walking paths or stop for ice cream at the local ice cream shop. The park and ball diamonds that are adjacent to the apartments and villas make it a nice spot for watching a baseball game and other activities from time to time.

At AbleLight Village there are activities for everyone to do together, helping residents get to know each other, and opportunities to simply enjoy time with each other. We were fortunate to be able to go to some of these activities before we moved in so my boys could start to be familiar with the building and some of the residents already living there. This also helps with my comfort level of having them out of our house, knowing that there are other adults around who are looking out for them, or who they could go to if they have concerns besides the manager of the complex. It truly is a community of its own.  

The thought of my boys moving out on their own was scary and exciting all at the same time. Would they do their daily hygiene without someone there? Would they keep their place clean? Would they watch TV or play video games ALL THE TIME? It was very rewarding for all of us to see that they took pride in their new place. They wanted to prepare a meal for family or some friends when they came over. Don’t get me wrong, hamburgers and pizza are still their favorite foods. 😊

The Smartlink bus can pick them up without Mom coming to take them to work. Sometimes they put in a load of wash to make sure their uniform is ready for work. Who knew?! We still have a personal care assistant come in to help guide them a couple of times a week along with their charts that need to be monitored, so challenges still exist.  

Again, I can’t stress how much of a change this is for both parents and our young adults. It will probably be more hands on to begin with to make sure that your child is feeling comfortable and has plenty of “tools” available to him or her to make sure that they are successful. It is worth it when you see the pride in their faces when they are handling this life change successfully.

There will be ups and downs and continue to be struggles as there have been all along the way, but knowing that they will be set up for independence as we continue to get older, knowing by then they will be able to handle living on their own with help, gives us the satisfaction and comfort that we need. Of course there will be tough moments – when it’s time to feed the pets at home and the boys aren’t around to help, or when we’d like to watch a favorite TV show together. However, a visit to their new apartment and watching them tell me about a walk they took or resident they chatted with makes it all worthwhile.

See what the Minneapolis Star Tribune had to say about the success of AbleLight Village in Victoria, Minn.