Mainstream Living

Tip of the Month

Although everyone we serve has a diagnosis of an Intellectual Disability or Chronic Mental Illness, there is a great diversity in their levels of independence and what support is needed from staff.  Every individual needs different types of support and one are often overlooked is financial management.  It can be easy to assume that someone will never be able to manage their money by themselves, however, it’s important to remember that having control and independence in ones finances is one of the biggest contributors to independence overall. There are several different ways to push someone toward financial independence, but what is important to remember is that, as staff, we should always make attempts to reach just a little further than they thought possible.  Outlined are several different ways to push people toward financial independence, ranging from simple to complex.

1. Involve members in making choices while shopping

If you are going to the grocery store with a member or group of members, it can be easy to slip into the habit of making a list yourself and grabbing everything you need, while they tag along.  Regardless of independence level, it is important to involve members in this process.  For some, it may mean simply asking a member to physically choose, or even look at the specific items that they want.  For others, it might mean they hold the list, and they lead you through the store to pick everything out, while you’re just there for guidance.

2. Have the member(s) pay

For some members, this might mean handing them the money immediately before getting into a checkout line, so that they can give it to the cashier when it is time to pay.  For others it may mean giving them the money before you go to the store to carry and be responsible for.  Still for others, it may be helping them at home to determine how much money they should bring.  Different members also have varying degrees of skills when it comes to counting money, so make sure to push a member to the edge of their skill level, and challenge them to go beyond it.

3. Help members create budgets for individual shopping trips, and bigger picture budgets

Ask members (who are capable of understanding) questions like, “How much do you think you should spend?” or “How much does a certain item cost?”  Involve them in the conversation about how much money they might need to bring to the store, what they might want to buy, and how that might affect their bank account.  Encourage members to make shopping lists themselves, or to help with this process.  For people who don’t read, or are non-verbal, consider using pictures to communicate.  

4. Have patience.  Recognize that it is okay for community members to need to be patient.

It may take a member much longer than you to do things like figuring out a budget, counting money, or even handing money over.  Try your best to allow members to bring these tasks to completion, because this is vital in helping them take steps toward independence.  Also, it gives the message to the community that people with disabilities are important, and they deserve this independence.  Most people will happily oblige.

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