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Independence Academy

Our Board’s initial focus was to find affordable property for this project while partnering with other organizations in this field (SOS Cares, Oak Tree Farms and Arizona First Place). However, it became abundantly clear that for individuals with physical and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities (P/I/DD) to move into independent housing, they need to learn independent living skills. Therefore, we shifted our focus.    


This program, running four hours a day, four days a week, will train individuals 18 years or older with P/I/DD in the skills needed to live independently in their own residence. Measurable benchmarks will assess their mastery of each module’s skill.   


Although our goal is to prepare future residents of Harmony to live as independently as possible, we know that all P/I/DD individuals should be prepared for the inevitable: a time when their parents can no longer care for them. For this reason, our modules and curriculum will be freely disseminated.  We have submitted a proposal to Columbia International University; HIA will train 12 students with two experienced independent living skills facilitators. They will also have an aide, along with community and college volunteers. These volunteers will follow the college’s regular semester schedule. HIA students will be empowered to reach benchmarks in daily living skills that create independence.

Our Steps Toward Accomplishment

Community partners will work closely with us to provide training for students in various daily living skills. Harvest Hope and SNAP education of the Department of Health and Human Services will provide training for students in a module on nutrition and healthy eating. Bank of America’s “Better Money Habits” module for P/I/DD will also be employed.  


The daily living skills module training will also be developed for social awareness and communication, safety, nutritional cooking skills, supported decision-making, benefits, resources (taught by SCThrives), personal hygiene, health and wellness, self-care, making/setting appointments, etc. 

In addition to skill mastery, HIA will coach students in independent decision-making concerning their individual goals in life and skills to live in an interdependent world. This allows them to recognize their gifts, talents, struggles, and circumstances in which accommodations in daily living skills may be needed). The concept of working with others - who someday may be their housemates - and the interdependent quality of community and communication skills will be woven into the curriculum.

Another Way for Students to Engage

The Independence Academy Network (IAN) will be established to reach communities outside of the academy. Modules of daily living skills will be published and disseminated with a #IndependenceChallenge. This hashtag photo challenge will provide a tool for individuals who can’t attend HIA to still participate in practicing these skills at home. When they have reached the benchmark, they or their family will post a photo of their success on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag.   


Individuals who successfully complete an evaluation will be placed in a drawing to win a community-donated business or gift card prize. 

This hashtag challenge meets a two-fold purpose: To measure the success of HIA Modules further and to challenge other adults with physical and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities (P/I/DD) in achieving the same independent living goals.Our ultimate hope is for a curriculum (once tested in HIA) that could be refined and disseminated to the public, benefitting any family seeking solutions for independent living for their loved one with P/I/DD. 

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