Alex is a 25 year old with a supportive, charismatic older sister and encouraging, vibrant younger brother. He is a keen follower of Rugby and WWE wrestling, he goes to karate three times a week and has been a member of the dojo for a number of years. Alex is very much a part of the karate family. He goes to the gym on a regular basis and enjoys going out with his mates for a beer. He is animated and invigorated when on a podium speaking in public and he has a big heart.

Alex works four days a week in three different jobs, having recently negotiated an extra day for one of them. He also spends one morning volunteering at a food bank. Alex has a major focus in life that keeps him strong and on track; he is deeply committed to his Catholic faith. He is interested in helping others with and without disabilities to appreciate life and to respect those around them. Alex is proud of whom he is and does not let having Down syndrome define him and does his best to be a role model for others.

Alex is one of four flatmates in his home and life has been pretty good since he moved in. This is largely due to him having a very detailed plan that focused on his ideas, aspirations, gifts and interest. He knew exactly what he wanted including non-disabled flatmates, a home in the area that he knew, a place that gave him separation from his parents, but not too much! He wanted to have supportive flatmates who would enable him to live without ‘caregivers’ because he does not think of himself as being sick or a child that needs to be cared for. Alex’s parents met this vision with their own, which made sure he would not be lonely or isolated, securely supported by intentional networks and sufficiently included in his community. As well as the support Alex had from his family there was much discussion and thinking done together with his circle of support that had formed a few years before he left school.

There was so much planning and thinking, in fact, that Alex became frustrated with all the talk about his moving out of home and started to demand some action! His mother felt like she needed to be in the right space to let things move forward and when she was ready (pushed by her eager son) everything fell nicely into place. Alex employed a personal assistant to help find a flat, flatmates and to guide him towards becoming a competent member of his own household. Together they searched very hard for a suitable home in a mapped out area close to his local hub in Remuera. Everything was expensive and there were little choices of houses that would attract the type of flatmates Alex was looking for. Alex’s parents came up with the incredibly generous idea to take on the rental market themselves so that Alex could remain where he was. Within a few months it was transformed into a comfortable four bedroom house ideal for a young group of professionals to live together.

While all this was going on, Alex and his family came up with a list of names for a group to take over from his previous circle. A more appropriate set of young people was required who had flatting and social knowledge to help Alex become a more included member of society. A letter was written by Alex and his PA to invite these energetic and thoughtful people to be a committed part of an intentional friendship network. They all responded with extreme positivity. This group, the Young Champs, is now (after a few subtractions and additions) an intricate part of his life that freely gives of their time and inspires, motivates and supports him. They come together every six weeks to enjoy dinner at Alex’s flat and to discuss the goals for the near and distant future.

When Alex’s house was ready to become his flat, it was quickly listed on Trademe for flatmates. His parents held their breath and at times were quite overwhelmed with what was happening. They certainly didn’t do this without questioning themselves if they had done the right thing even though they had always imagined what his life would look like. Within days there was a response from two sisters who were moving from Tauranga for university and flight attendant training school. They sounded perfect so a reply was sent with some details about the flat and about Alex, and arranged a house viewing. They were bubbly, warm and genuinely nice people, similar aged to Alex; a great match for the flat.
It was around this time that the family decided to have the Needs Assessment so that they could get an Individual Funding package in place based on his needs now that he was no longer living with them it became apparent how much was being done for him by family. There is nothing that his family would do differently. He has an Individual Funding package that works for him, and the host provider, Manawanui In Charge have been there in the background and available when needed.

As they were not able to move in for a few weeks it was agreed that Alex’s PA would move in for the two weeks between his parents moving out and his flatmates moving in. It was a good transition period for Alex to settle into the change and prepare for new housemates that weren’t his family. He quickly had to learn some courtesy rules such as, not carrying his radio around the house blaring loud music early in the morning and making sure he knocks on others’ bedroom doors. These were all things spoken about clearly before he started flatting but these things need to be learned in situ. There are still moments now that he needs to be reminded how to be a good flatmate and what that actually means. Part of this is teaching Alex to understand the different ways people live their lives.

Soon after the girls moved into the flat a young man viewed the fourth room and got on really well with Alex. He moved up from Cambridge the next weekend to start a new job and completed this great flat. There have been two new flatmates, where lives have changed and they’ve had to move on, but we have always managed to find someone who fits in, either through friends of the flatmates or using Trademe. Two of the original flatties remain and are solid friends with Alex. It is the responsibility of Alex’s PA to help everyone connect so there is a cohesive understanding and friendly feel to the house, as well as making sure behaviour in the house is appropriate.

His mother has learnt that it is perfectly OK for Alex to spend time alone and his family have absolute trust in him that if he is lonely or bored he will call them. Alex also trusts that his family will be there whenever he needs us.

So that his family could get a “look in”, his sister was paid to clean his bathroom and to get to know the flatmates. After a few months she felt things were working out just fine.

At the outset, one of the girls offered to help Alex with household chores so she was paid to help with his shopping, washing and ironing and cooking dinner for him 3-4 nights a week. This has been amazing but things change and her job has become more time consuming so is now no longer in a paid support role. In the last two years Alex has grown and matured in many ways and is taking greater responsibility for some household tasks. He began flatting with very little knowledge of how to cook or clean and in many ways was no different from other young males living at home.

He needed his parents to transport him wherever he needed to be and had gotten used to having everything done for him. Alex is now in charge of doing his washing, vacuuming his room, cooking once a week and seeing if any flatmates will be home to join him, he catches buses and organises his own social life. He walks up to the supermarket to restock the necessities (milk, Wheatbix, bananas) whenever this is needed or if he feels like a friendly chat with the security guards at the local supermarket. His weekly meet up with his PA is what keeps him on task and is the glue to what keeps things in place for him.

His neighbours keep an eye out for him as do the many people in and around his community. His parents have learnt that it is OK to let go and have trusted what he has been taught