Creating a healthy and supported, independent lifestyle for people with disabilities
Reprinted from the "Supporting Adult Children" issue of Visions Journal, 2019, 15 (1), pp. 43
Vela Canada is a non-profit organization that works with individuals with disabilities at no cost to create customized support systems through the development of Microboards™. A Microboard™ is a unique model of care in which a small (micro) group of committed family and friends (a minimum of five people) joins with an individual with a disability to create a non-profit society (a board). With direction from the individual with the disability, the Microboard™ helps the individual plan their life, advocates for what they need, monitors their services, manages their funding and ensures they are safe. Ultimately, a Microboard™ provides the individual with the opportunity to live a self-directed, independent lifestyle.
Historically, once a child with a disability became an adult, the individual would either continue to live at home with parents or family or move into a group home with support staff managed by an agency. For some, these are desirable options. But many people living with a disability would prefer to create their own home and direct their own lives. A Microboard™ can help an individual to do just this. Because the Microboard™ manages the individual's funding, the individual can hire their own support staff and determine staff schedules. The Microboard™ also supports and empowers the person to participate fully in society, by working, volunteering, going to school or taking part in extracurricular activities—anything the individual chooses.
It is not uncommon for someone with a disability to struggle with mental health issues, because of isolation, social constraints or minimal community involvement and friendships. If an individual feels they have no choice—as if their life is controlled by a complex social system—this can increase their mental health struggles. The development of a Microboard™ can have a positive impact on not only the mental, emotional and physical well-being of the individual with a disability but also the health of the individual’s parents.
"I was living in a group home with five other completely different people. I felt like I was merely surviving. In hindsight I was very unhappy and there was very little joy in my life, but I did the best I could. I was not in control of any area of my life. One day I learned about Microboards and after setting up my Microboard it completely changed the path of my life. I learned how to live my own life and be my own person. I do whatever I want to do. I hire the people I want. I do the activities I want. I live life like everyone else. I went from a life of surviving to a life of thriving and becoming the person I am today."
– Microboard™ user
Many parents of children with disabilities are not aware of the supports available for their children after high school. When a Microboard™ is created, the parental obligation to care for an adult child with a disability is lifted. The responsibility of care transfers to the Microboard,™ which typically consists of family members and close friends of the individual with the disability. A Microboard™ also provides aging parents with the comfort of knowing that there will be organized support for their adult child once the parents pass on.
For more information on Vela Canada and Microboards,™ please visit our website, www.velacanada.org.