Taking the Full Life Process International

Blue and green logo for Community Living Essex County

COMMUNITY LIVING ESSEX COUNTY, located in Ontario, Canada, believes every individual is essential to the success of the entire community. With over 725 employees supporting over 700 individuals with intellectual disabilities, we knew that our collaborative approach could help this agency support its participants.

“People were asking for a change in their living environments, and we had difficulty determining the level of support needed to assist more independent living,” says project manager Shelbey Pillon. Her organization became involved with Center for Independent Futures as the agency researched tools to aid accurate skills assessments. With more than 300 identified skills and 150 lessons with resources to train skills, our Full Life Process fit the bill.

“The Full Life Process addresses a common struggle among large agencies,” Shelbey says. “The process allows organizations that have many staff working with an individual to efficiently coordinate support.” Because the online application is easy to access by multiple staff members, the agency team can work collaboratively with concrete information to teach and track skill progress. “Staff can monitor progress and share information so everyone knows what has been accomplished and can begin working where other team members left off.”

“It is a thrill to work with our first international partner,” shares Chrissy Lewis, Center for Independent Futures’ Full Life Process Consultant. “Working with Shelbey’s team has been so exciting. They are thinking outside the box as they work to implement the use of the Full Life Process in their organization.”

Our comprehensive, person-centered approach to skills assessment, skill training, and life planning helps us build partnerships with service providers like this one. Working with our programs, Community Living Essex County is able to support people as they follow their dreams toward more independent living.

Presentation at National Down Syndrome Conference

Chrissy & Cynthia at the National Down Syndrome ConferenceCenter for Independent Futures hit the road again last month! Schools Consultant Chrissy and Community Life Coordinator Cynthia flew to Dallas in the middle of July. They faced the heat of Texas to present to the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) Conference.

At the National Down Syndrome Conference, parents, self-advocates, siblings, and volunteers gather to learn from industry experts. Thousands of people come to the conference to hear the newest information in the field. Center for Independent Futures was honored to be considered a leader in the field at this conference.

“We were pleased when we were asked to submit a proposal to present at the NDSC,” said Cynthia. “Our informative and interactive presented, ‘A Roadmap to Hope: Creating a Circle of Support for Your Adult Sibling,’ was well received.” Cynthia also expressed how wonderful it was to reconnect with other groups who are using the Full Life Process around the country, like Club 21.

Explore the Full Life Process

Though we don’t focus on labels here, we designed our Full Life Process to help anyone with an intellectual or developmental disability who needs support. It covers eight areas that encompass a full life, including home life, wellness, getting around, and more. The Full Life Process includes three crucial steps: planning, skills inventory, and skills training.

Those three investigative and planning steps help individuals work toward discovering their hopes and dreams – and then achieving them. After acknowledging obstacles, our process helps to develop action plans to develop necessary skills. We love sharing our Full Life Process throughout the country, providing schools & agencies with tools to facilitate person-centered planning.

Thank you to the NDSC for inviting Chrissy and Cynthia to speak at the Conference, and thank you to the audience for participating and engaging! Finally, keep an eye out for where our training consultants fly off to next!  

Sharing the Full Life Process

Our partnerships with schools and agencies put our person-centered approaches in the hands of teachers and human service professionals working to support individuals to build full, independent lives. By sharing tools and resources, we help schools like Stevenson High School prepare students for the transition after graduation.

Partnering with a Blue Ribbon School

Logo for Stevenson High SchoolSince opening in 1965, STEVENSON HIGH SCHOOL has been a recipient of four Blue Ribbon Awards for Excellence in Education. As one of the best high schools in America, Stevenson’s Special Education Division works diligently to understand its students as individuals and help them choose their paths through self-advocacy.

As part of Stevenson’s Transition Team, Megan Sugrue has worked to build a program based on teaching the vital skills necessary for life after high school.  The Full Life Process has been an essential addition to their program. “The Full Life Process curriculum is high quality, visually appealing, and focused on skills attainment,” Megan says. “The online application makes it easy for me to find the lesson plans and resources relevant for individual students.”

Working with the online application, Stevenson students are able to have a voice in creating the life they envision. “Some students don’t see themselves as people with strengths,“ relates Marney Orchard, a Center for Independent Futures School and Agency Consultant working with the Stevenson team. “I love how this process allows students to reflect, recognize their talents, and express what they want for their future.”  

Moving Forward with Stevenson High School

Stevenson High School crestMegan has become an advocate for the Full Life Process with other educators. “In addition to the curriculum, professional development and training to use the platform are provided,” Megan tells her peers. “Center for Independent Futures’ professional, responsive, and personable support staff are available to problem solve and troubleshoot as needed.”

Using the Full Life Process, Megan’s days as a transition educator are smoother and more efficient. The Stevenson team is beginning to bring data collected from the Full Life Process into Individualized Education Plan meetings. We are excited to continue supporting transition programs like Stevenson’s across the state of Illinois and beyond.

California, Here We Come!

Logo for Club 21 in red with blue and green people illustrations to the left.With the bitterly cold weather hovering over the Chicago Area, three of the Center for Independent Futures staff will cheerfully head off to sunny California to present at the Annual “Tools for the Journey” Conference sponsored by Club 21 Learning and Resource Center. Club 21’s mission is to provide the educational tools and resources that enable individuals with Down syndrome to be fully included. Founded in 2009, the organization offers a variety of services for individuals and their families designed to support, educate, advocate and celebrate.

Meeting with Club 21

In April 2017, a phone call from Nancy Litteken, Club 21’s Executive Photo of Club 21 ED Nancy LittekenDirector, began our relationship with this eight-year-old California non-profit. We discovered very quickly that our values are the same, and that this organization has made incredible strides to support individuals and families in their area. As our conversations continued, Nancy and her team immediately saw the value of our Full Life Process™, and they are piloting the online application in California.

“We’re excited about this opportunity to bring our work to the west coast,” remarks Ann Sickon. “Nancy and her team are creative and innovative, and we anticipate a long relationship that will benefit both of our organizations.” Presentations at the “Tools for the Journey” Conference will focus on Center for Independent Futures’ Full Life Process™ online application, the Bridge Builders & Community Connectors Project to foster Community Inclusion, and our New Futures Initiative Training to create community-based housing solutions.

For more Conference information and registration, visit Club 21’s website.

Partnering with Equip for Equality for Brighter Futures

When graduation appears on the horizon, most high schoolers are excited to transition to their next educational or employment opportunity. But for students with disabilities, the thought of leaving the support of school services often creates fear and uncertainty.

Center for Independent Futures believes that all individuals deserve bright futures after high school. Over the past year, we collaborated with Equip for Equality to support Chicago Public Schools students to create person-centered transition plans based on their hopes and dreams.

Center for Independent Futures School Coordinator Sharon Purdy worked with students identified by Equip for Equality to create plans and resources, meeting with students and their supporters in their neighborhoods throughout Chicago. Sharon used our Full Life ProcessTM to support individuals to identify resources, set goals, and make plans, starting by encouraging the student to articulate their goals.

“It makes a huge difference when the families know what their students want to do. We’re fortunate to be in a position where we can ask students what their dreams are,” Sharon explained.

With those dreams in mind, Sharon and the students created a portfolio of resources to support their transitions to community life after high school. They took inventory of each student’s assets and interests, identified any potential obstacles and support needs, created a map of the student’s personal network of supporters, and then set goals in all of the areas that make up a full life.

Throughout the process, the students had the opportunity to express their own hopes for the future. Margie Wakelin, a supervising attorney at Equip for Equality’s special education clinic, said that seeing students build these skills of self-expression was the most remarkable outcome of the collaboration.

“Center for Independent Futures empowers our students to direct their own transition planning and learn to self-advocate for the support they need,” Margie said. “Through using the tools Center for Independent Futures has developed, the student understands the importance of his or her voice.”

Whether a student is creating a transition plan or an individual is setting goals for the future, the voice of individuals with disabilities forms the core of our Full Life ProcessTM. Through our comprehensive, person-centered planning tools, individuals with disabilities and their families share their dreams and find the tools and resources they need to fulfill them. Our collaboration with Equip for Equality will lead to more students leading fuller lives in the community after graduation.

“Center for Independent Futures’ work has been instrumental in placing our students in a strong position to achieve their transition goals and enter adulthood with a solid foundation,” Margie said.

Success Stories

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