Expectations in Adulthood: How to Tell If Your Young Adult with a Learning Difference is Ready to Live on Their Own

Expectations in Adulthood: How to Tell If Your Young Adult with a Learning Difference is Ready to Live on Their Own

Expectations in Adulthood: How to Tell If Your Young Adult with a Learning Difference is Ready to Live on Their Own

Help your young adult with learning differences prepare for independent living with these simple strategies you can practice at home.

At Transitions, we support and encourage independent living for young adults with disabilities. These young adults are capable of transitioning from the parental home to living alone, but may need some extra help to do so. Transitions teaches many independent living skills and strategies, but young people don’t always need to attend a program to start learning how to live on their own. Learning begins at home, with their parents.

Skills: Independent Living for Young Adults with Learning Differences

Independent living means taking charge of daily life and housing decisions, both big and small. But how can you tell if your son or daughter is ready for such responsibility? There are a number of basic skills you can practice with your son or daughter now that serve as indicators for whether they are prepared for success in independent living.

Personal Care

Managing the day-to-day tasks necessary to keeping themselves happy and healthy can be one of the most challenging things for young adults with learning differences to master, because they are so used to having high levels of support in all areas of life.

  • Enforce the importance of appropriate hygiene with your son or daughter, including showering regularly, brushing teeth daily, keeping hair and clothes neat and clean, etc.
  • Identify ways to incorporate exercise and physical fitness into daily routines. This can be as structured as a gym membership or as simple as going for daily walks.
  • Talk to your son or daughter about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, etc.
  • Make sure your son or daughter knows how to administer their own medication, who to contact in an emergency, when it is necessary to seek medical attention and how to do so.

Click here for a poster you can print and post for your child to use as a reference when getting ready in the morning.

Money Management

Living alone means one must be familiar and comfortable with the huge responsibilities of budgeting, paying bills and banking.

  • Help your son or daughter create a list of potential expenses to track where their money is going.
  • Discuss how and when to pay their bills.
  • Implement digital reminders or other helpful prompts to keep them on track financially.
  • Encourage frugal saving and spending habits.


Laundry is an essential skill for independent living, but many young adults with learning differences – in fact, many young adults, period –never do their own laundry before leaving home.

  • Practice with your son or daughter at home.
  • Teach him or her to break the process into smaller, less overwhelming steps (i.e. – sorting the clothes, washing, drying and folding).
  • Teach your son or daughter to be mindful of care instructions for different items of clothing.


Living alone means being able to get around on your own reliably and efficiently, both to meet obligations such as getting to work and to do things one enjoys, such as socializing with friends.

  • Help your young adult understand how long it takes to get places, whether on the bus, walking or in a car.
  • If he or she plans to use public transport, practice taking the bus, train, subway, etc. to places they will visit frequently.
  • Show your son or daughter how to use a GPS or map application on a smartphone.

Food and Nutrition

Cooking and eating healthy meals can be one of the most difficult parts of independent living for young adults with learning differences, but being able to prepare, cook and store food safely is essential to health and overall wellbeing.

  • Talk to your son or daughter about food safety.
  • Teach him or her to prepare meals in advance for easy consumption on weeknights.
  • Show your son or daughter how to store leftovers and advise them on how long to keep those leftovers.
  • Make a sample grocery list for him or her to reference at the store.
  • Practice making simple meals with your son or daughter.


Groceries are not the only purchases your son or daughter will make when living independently. Independent young adults should be able to keep their homes stocked with essentials of all kinds.

  • Discuss important household items that will need to be purchased periodically (toilet paper, shampoo, cleaning supplies, etc.)
  • Show your son or daughter where to buy those things.
  • Teach him or her how to browse for the best prices and use coupons to save money.

Independent living is not out of reach for your young adult with a learning difference. If your son or daughter has practiced independent living skills before moving out, shows good understanding of how to manage day-to-day tasks and has a firm grasp on how to budget and pay for things, then he or she may be ready to try living alone.

Find out more about Transitions programs near Albany, New York, to help your son or daughter prepare for independent living by calling (518) 775-5384 or emailing admissions@transitionsusa.org.

About the Author:

Lauren Repholz is Transitions’ program coordinator. She has more than a decade of experience in supporting people to grow and become more independent, both at Transitions and at Lexington, a chapter of The Arc New York, where she was a direct support staff and residential manager. At Transitions, Lauren oversees all aspects of the program and personally administers much of the independent living curriculum.

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