ILO Celebrates it’s First Success: Founding Family Self-Advocate Achieves Independent Living

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Hello everyone, and welcome back to our blog!

Well, the last two weeks have been very exciting here at M&L. We are incredibly proud to announce that the special needs community development project being facilitated by M&L, Center for Independent Futures (CIF) and Integrated Living Opportunities (ILO)  has had its first success story – as of October 26th, founding family member Elaine Fickenscher became the first  self-advocate to move into an independent living setting! From all of us here at M&L, the staff of CIF, and everyone involved with ILO, congratulations to Elaine and her family!

As everyone involved with inclusive community development is aware, the road to independent living is not always an easy one for individuals with special needs and their families. Elaine’s journey towards independent living was no exception to this rule; as Debbie can attest, there were many challenges to be faced and roadblocks to overcome. Please join us as we share a little bit of that story with you, in the hopes that you are as inspired by Elaine’s success as we are.

As well, in equally exciting news, ILRI assessments are taking place this week. 4 out of our 5 founding family self-advocates will be going through this process – please read on to the end of the blog for more information. But first, Elaine’s story.

Welcome Home, Elaine!

“My goal was to help my daughter move out of the family home by Thanksgiving of the year she turned 30.  That means Thanksgiving 2014, and we made it!” – Debbie Fickenscher

Debbie’s quest to help her daughter Elaine find/achieve inclusive independent living began in the same place that many families with special needs begin their housing journey: on a list, waiting for government support. In Debbie’s case, this support was supposed to come in the form of a voucher – specifically, the HUD Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.

After years of waiting around on that list, Debbie decided to take Elaine’s future into her own hands, and began investigating other possibilities.  By committing to Center for Independent Futures® New Futures Initiative™ training, Debbie learned the skills and understood the concept of creating community partnerships. This new understanding gave Debbie the power to move forward and helped Elaine create her own Community Living Option™ with her own community partnerships in Germantown, Maryland.

A lot of energy, time, and resources were exhausted to get Elaine and Debbie to this particular place. It was certainly a group effort, and we accomplished our mission! Elaine has been living independently for close to two weeks, and so far everything has gone smoothly.  It helps, of course, that Elaine already has her jobs, her job coach and her CSLA counselor.  The big change is the move out of Debbie’s home and into her own place with her roommate.  Elaine and her family all expect bumps in the road, but they are excited and are currently enjoying the honeymoon phase of Elaine’s new Community Living Option™ in Germantown, Maryland.

ILRI Assessments happening this week!

If you have been following along (or are involved) with M&L’s community development project and the formation of Integrated Living Opportunities (ILO), you are no doubt familiar with the Independent Living Readiness Inventory™ (ILRI) assessments. Created by Center for Independent Futures®, the ILRI is an “integrated evaluation and interactive assessment of a young adult’s daily living skills and experiences.” During the inventory process, the consultants gather background information on the individual, and observe the individual’s independent living skills through “hands-on, experiential activities.” To read more about ILRI assessments, please click here.

We are very excited to announce that 4 self-advocates from the founding families completed their ILRI assessments this week. This is a very exciting step forward for M&L, ILO and the self- advocates. By completing the LIRI assessment these four individuals are one step closer to their goal of independent living. In addition, Rebecca Reubin and Debbie Fickenscher are now trained to complete these ILRI assessments.

To read a more detailed explanation of ILRI assessments, please click here to access our blog on the topic, or visit CIF’s website for more information.

Would you like more information on how to join ILO and begin creating an independent living option for your family member with a disability? Contact us today!

M&L and the organizers behind ILO are hoping to establish independent living options (that follow the CIF model) in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. Currently, we are recruiting for core families for all three areas – if you are interested in learning more about how this process works, or would like to learn how to go about creating special needs communities for your loved ones with special needs please contact us! If you would like to read more about how the CIF Community Living Option™ model works, please visit CIF’s website, You may also wish to read about the importance of community partnerships to this community development model.

As well, we strive to ensure that our website is not only a method of contacting us and learning about M&L as a company, but also as a reliable resource for information pertaining to special needs financial and life planning. Please browse around our Resource webpage, and also have a look through our blog archive. To make full use of our website, just type any topic that interests you into the search bar – if it is related to special needs planning, then chances are we’ve written on it. And, if we haven’t, send us an email and we will devote a future blog to the topic.

Thanks for dropping by today – see you all next week!

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