Planning for your Child’s Special Needs: Centers for Independent Living

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Written by: Lakshmi Mahadevan, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Extension Specialist – Special Populations, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

For parents, guardians and youth with special needs, transition from school to adulthood and beyond can be very challenging and scary. Service providers like Centers for Independent Living (CILs) can ease the process by providing supports at critical junctures during this transition period (18 years and above). However, not everyone is aware of what CILs are, how their services can be accessed, what services are available and most importantly when those services should be accessed. Below we will provide you with a brief overview of CILs.

Centers for Independent Living (CILs)

Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are consumer-controlled, community-based, cross-disability, nonresidential private nonprofit organizations that are designed and operated by individuals with disabilities that provide an array of independent living services (Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and its amendments). CILs originated from the disability-rights movement in the 1960’s and they operate on the philosophy that every person, regardless of disability, has the potential and the right to exercise individual self-determination (Life CIL, 2020).

Core Services

CILs address independent living skills by providing core services such as, (1) individual and systems advocacy; (2) peer mentoring; (3) independent living skills training; and (4) information and referral. Additionally, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (2014) added a fifth core service, which refers to transition from nursing homes and other institutions to community-based residences; and to facilitate the transition of youth with significant disabilities after completion of secondary education to adult life. Key factors characterize CILs:

  • Any consumer who believes they have a disability and feel the need for services can utilize their local CIL.
  • CIL program managers conduct a comprehensive intake and determine with the consumer whether they are eligible for government-based services.
  • CILs can work with families as a whole, however all information is kept confidential in that they will not share information about the consumer if the parent/guardian requests it.
  • CILs operate on a trauma-informed basis in that they focus on the future and provide tools that allow for independent living through retirement and death.
  • When a consumer walk into a CIL, CILs ask, “where are you at? And “where do you want to go?” – thus it is never too late for an individual to seek help.

To determine where your local CIL is visit: ILRU Directory of CILs and Associations. To learn more about CILs and how they can help you visit: Administration for Community Living – Independent Living Services (ILS) Program. Note: Watch for our detailed podcasts on CILs coming soon!

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