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Alex's Story continued

By then his family had heard about LIGHTS. With support from Community Living Toronto, they began to work on a plan and a budget. His dad worried about all of it, but Alex’s brother and sister were confident in the plan and completely supportive. Laura, our LIGHTS facilitator, helped Alex and his family finalize their personal plan and budget. Alex was ready to go! As soon as the apartment Alex lives in became available, his sister Mariam took him to see it. Alex walked through the door, and—well, we can’t print what he next told me. But, he says, “My eyes were as big as saucers!”

I ask him why he wanted to live on his own. He answers that he wanted more independence, and to be his own person. His brother and sister had moved out, and he wanted to develop his own friendships. The plan was for Alex to spend two days a week in his new home at first, then four, and finally five days a week, going to his dad’s every weekend. Alex moved in last summer. He hasn’t felt the need to spend a night at his dad’s ever since! He loves his new home and his independence.

What about cooking, and food, I ask. Alex has his answer all ready: he does his own cooking (by remembering his mum’s great techniques and recipes), connecting to Jamie on Facetime if he has a problem. An agency caseworker helps him with meal planning, and he does most of his own food shopping, too.

When he isn’t out dancing or bowling or taking guitar lessons—the man has an active social life!—Alex has dinner a few nights a week with friends who live in his building. Many of his friends still live with their parents.

Now Alex wants to teach these friends the skills he has learned so that they can live on their own, with LIGHTS and family support, as Alex does.

“What do you think those skills are?” I ask Alex.

He has a ready answer, as usual. “A location to live, use of the TTC, math skills, cooking skills, and being comfortable living on your own.” Alex has it figured out. Would he consider speaking at a LIGHTS workshop for other families considering this journey? Again, his answer is instantaneous. “I would be honoured to speak to other families about me!”

It has been an honour to spend the evening with Alex in his place, in the home he calls his own, and treats as his own. When I ask him what his favourite song is, and if he can play it on his guitar, he strums through High and Dry, by Gordon Lightfoot, with Lightfoot accompaniment in the background. A perfect ending to a magical evening!

Before I can leave, however, Alex has a question of his own for me and Jamie. Can he stay in his home after five years are up? (LIGHTS hopes that, over a five year stretch, families will be able to find alternate funding going forward, so that new families can be supported.) Jamie has seen the enormous changes in Alex, and he reassures his brother that he will find a way.

“I have the answer”, Alex replies. “I will work hard and save all my money!” And with his huge grin, he thanks me for coming and says good-bye.

Alex’s family’s approach to the future is similar to that of most of our LIGHTS families. They are very concerned about the five year financial limit for LIGHTS funding, but they live with hope. That hope, and the engagement of the entire family in the planning process, is the main reason, in our experience, that a family succeeds.