David – Designing His Own Independent Living Model

October 27, 2021
David with his family's dog, standing in front of the Irby Ranch sign

One of the reasons I love working as the Residential Programs Manager at Irby Ranch in Pleasanton, CA is the diversity in independent-living models among the residents in the community. With each resident bringing their own unique set of support services, Irby Ranch is an example of the uniqueness in what successful independent living can look like for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). This month’s Resident Spotlight is on David, who is a great example of that diversity.

David, who does not use words to communicate, has been living fulltime at Irby Ranch since October 2020. I often see David in the courtyard, where he can be found saying “hello” to everyone who approaches him by waving or doing a fist-bump.

David tossing a basketball toward the hoop on the Irby Ranch Sports courtUsing PECS cards (Picture Exchange Communications System), hand gestures, and some assistance from his dad, Angel, David shared with me his thoughts on living independently.

David used the “happy” and “exercise” PECS cards to communicate how he feels about his hobbies and interests: playing basketball on the Irby Ranch sports court, coloring, and listening to music. He is very family-oriented, and enjoys spending time with his siblings and parents and playing with their two dogs. He often joins his siblings on outings, such as going to the movies.

On Living Independently

When David moved to Irby Ranch last year, it was his first experience living independently. Prior to that, David lived with his parents. Despite moving during a pandemic, Angel said the transition has not been very difficult as he and his wife (David’s mom), live nearby and can provide the extra support while David transitions to being fully independent.

Due to support service staffing shortages, Angel currently supports David in being independent at his apartment. However, Angel anticipates that post-pandemic, David will be able to bring his own SLS (Supported Living Services) and IHSS (In-Home Support Services) support services to Irby Ranch. In the meantime, David self-initiates most of his activities of daily living, like brushing his teeth, getting dressed, and getting himself a snack when he’s hungry; he enjoys fruits and veggies, and his favorite cereal is Kashi. David also does his own laundry with a little help from Angel. “We feel that at Irby Ranch, David can achieve independent living with SLS and IHSS support,” said Angel.

On Living at Irby Ranch

David pointed to the “yes” PECS cards as Angel shared that he likes Irby Ranch. “It’s a safe and nice place,” said Angel. David likes his living room, and enjoys watching TV, working on picture puzzles, word puzzles, and coloring. He’s also excited to have his own room where he can take naps!

One of David’s favorite things to do at Irby Ranch is shoot hoops on the basketball court. David pointed to the basketball PECS card frequently during our conversation!

David sitting at his kitchen table with laptop, participating in his virtual day program.
David participating in his virtual day program.
David putting his laundry in the dryer at Irby Ranch.
David doing his laundry at Irby Ranch.
David sitting at his kitchen table with laptop, participating in his virtual day program.
David participating in his virtual day program.
David watering plants at the Sunflower Hill Garden.
David watering plants at the Sunflower Hill Garden.
David and Angel kneeling near a garden bed at the Sunflower Hill Garden.
David and his dad, Angel, volunteering at the Sunflower Hill Garden.
David and Angel standing near an easel at the Sunflower Hill Garden.
David and his dad, Angel, at the Sunflower Hill Garden.
David with a swiffer, mopping his kitchen floor.
David cleaning his apartment.
David vacuuming his bedroom.
David cleaning his apartment.
David holding dishes as he clears a table at the Stable Cafe restaurant.
David bussing tables while participating in the Stable Cafe program.

While David is more comfortable being an observer, he does enjoy participating in activities at Irby Ranch that interest him. Recently he’s enjoyed taking American Sign Language (ASL) classes from fellow resident, Jennifer, and attending Pet Therapy activities in the Community Room.

Thoughts on the Pandemic

Before the pandemic, David and his family always made plans to get outside of the house each day. But since the start of the pandemic, they take a lot of precautions and focus more on staying safe and healthy. Angel shared that due to the pandemic and current variants, David limits his activities to minimize exposure. He and his family follow protocols carefully, especially mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing objects. “These are hard to do at times but necessary to be safe and healthy,” said Angel. David agreed when Angel said that he looks forward to meeting new people post-pandemic.

Plans for 2021 & Beyond

David’s plans for 2021 include continuing to follow his daily routine to build his independent-living skills. With the expectation that support service staffing shortages end soon, Angel “hope(s) David transitions to independent living ASAP. We are, however, aware of the current difficulties due to the pandemic,” said Angel. Ultimately though, David is focused on being positive. He showed me two thumbs-up when Angel said, “be happy!”


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Story by: Pratimajit Kaur, Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch Residential Programs Manager
Contributing Writer: Rachel Clark, Sunflower Hill Communications Manager

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