Graham Caldow devised a route map to help his daughter, who has developmental learning disorder (DLD).

You may be facing the problems we faced as a family. We developed a way to make a life plan for our daughter and our life plan may work for you too. We created a Route Map by dividing the main aspects of her life into four categories which we liken to train lines. The diagram below is simplified; we can expand the number of stops on each line and devise strategies you can use at each stop, but for now, let’s keep it simple. 

The first of the four lines is the Daily Living line. This relates to the everyday living skills your sons and daughters need to live their daily lives both inside and outside the home and to look after themselves. Along the line are several stops: each stop is something that you feel needs to be addressed in your life plan for your child. In this simplified example, you can see three specific stops: Cooking (which relates to food preparation in general, because everyone needs this skill to some degree), Self-care and Travel; your route map will list several more. 

As you and the people in your life grow over time, relationships develop and change; for this reason, the second of the lines, the Relationships line, is circular. To ignore relationships in a life plan would be to ignore the importance people play in our everyday lives and our feelings of connection to the world and society. Our young adults need this as much as anyone else, even if they don’t always enjoy interacting with others. Relationships with Family and Friends often require additional work, and sometimes online friends become a chief source of companionship; these online friendships need a specific strategy, and so Online is regarded as a separate stop. The Relationships line recognises that feelings of loneliness can be the worst part of the human condition, and thus we need to plan which people will be in their lives and how that will happen. 

The Purpose line is to ensure our young adults have some sort of occupation, and here it is especially important to have a plan. It’s easy for them to fall out of engagement with the world and end up with nothing to do but stay at home all day. Even school – despite its challenges, and with the annoying ‘boss’ at the front of the class (the teacher) – is a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Without such a reason, it’s all too easy to become isolated and suffer from a lack of purpose. Regardless of the somewhat disheartening employment statistics for young adults with additional needs – in England only 5.1% of adults known to their local authority have paid work – it is crucially important to put this as a central part of their life plan, if for no other reason than to ensure good mental health. Work Experience may be a stop along the way, but the end goal needs to be either Paid Work (even if only on a part-time basis) or a community volunteering role of some kind. The emphasis shouldn’t be only on the money they might receive, but rather on the self-esteem and sense of identity it gives them. 

Having devised a plan to allow them to live with more independence, manage their relationships, and have a purpose to fill a good part of their day, this would all go to waste if their finances aren’t organised. Guardianships is a stop some might not think is for them, but it is an important stop for many. It may be that you choose to put more reliance on Trusts and therefore you will focus more heavily on this stop, as well as teaching them how to manage their expenses. Each of us will have different stops on the Financial line, depending on your child’s ability to manage money, but for everyone, this is about organising their money in a way that enables them to continue to live the life you have given them the ability to live, without the fear of homelessness or extreme poverty. To ensure this, it is imperative that their finances are planned in the same way as the other major parts of their life. While these four lines cannot cover every conceivable aspect of their life, they do cover all the major components. A plan for each of these will protect them in a way we will not always be able to and will give them a happy life they enjoy living.

Graham Caldow
Author: Graham Caldow

Graham Caldow
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Graham Caldow has a daughter with developmental learning disorder (DLD), who went to a speech and language school and has transitioned into part-time paid employment. He is the author of What’s Possible?, available on Amazon.

Youtube: @RedGiraffeSolutions


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