LifeNet Independent Living Support Program
How can the LifeNet program help you?
LifeNet is a private pay, independent living support program for Autistic and similarly Neurodivergent adults. The program empowers adults to pursue the lives they want by building connections to a broad support team. LifeNet meets the needs of adults and families who ask questions like, “who will help me transition to living on my own” or “who can help my adult family member live more independently over time?”
The LifeNet team uses a strengths-based adult-centered philosophy centered on the adult’s priorities and interests. Above all, LifeNet supports and honors the adult’s self-determination and self-advocacy. The LifeNet team consists of a personal advocate (licensed master’s level clinical professional), support partner (field based direct support professional), clinical supervisor (LICSW or other advanced supervisory clinician), LifeNet program director, and peer connections. The team serves as both a support network and a safety net, offering adults a greater sense of community and belonging.
AANE LifeNet Contact
Jay O’Brien, LifeNet Program Director
617-393-3824 ext. 260
“We have been desperately looking for exactly the services LifeNet provides. Our lives have changed 100% for the better…The total teamwork among the team is rare and wonderful…Keep on going!!””— LifeNet Parent
“Yes they have helped me so much! Because they care about me and make sure everything is alright…The program is run by wonderful people who care about the people in the program and will do whatever is needed to make them feel welcome.””— LifeNet Adult
What does the LifeNet program offer?
LifeNet offers caring support for Autistic adults across a full range of everyday tasks and responsibilities such as:
- Maintaining a healthy and safe living environment in their apartment or home
- Arranging and keeping healthcare and dental appointments
- Tending to nutrition, food safety, exercise and hygiene
- Managing budgets, bills, benefits and money
- Engaging socially – around their interests and at their pace
- Pursuing productive employment and/or volunteer opportunities
- Shopping and errands, transportation and travel guidance, and more
LifeNet delivers this personal support and advocacy in multiple ways:
- Holding regular check-ins and in-person visits
- Responding to questions or issues as they arise
- Monitoring and responding to changes in well-being
- Developing frustration tolerance and emotional regulation skills
- Addressing unmet needs, and making progress toward personal goals
- Help completing forms/paperwork and meeting deadlines
- Coordinating between providers and others in the adult’s support network
- Managing transitions of all kinds
Ensuring everyone enters into the LifeNet support program with realistic expectations is key to the success the Autistic adult can achieve.
We have processes in place to set and maintain the expectations of clients and their families as we work to support them. Read how.
Who’s on the LifeNet Team?
More than just a single caseworker, each LifeNet adult is supported by a team of people who have experience in understanding and meeting the needs of adults on the autism spectrum:
- Personal Advocate (clinical case manager) – licensed, master’s-level occupational therapist, social worker, or similar clinical professional
- Support Partner – field-based direct support professional
- Clinical Supervisor – LICSW or other advanced supervisory clinician
- LifeNet Program Director – overall administrator and ombudsman
- Peer Connections – other adults in the LifeNet or AANE community with similar profile or shared interests
Who’s eligible for the LifeNet program?
To ensure we can meet the needs of all LifeNet clients who enroll in this program, we’ve developed specific eligibility criteria to guide us.
- Geography: adult lives within ~1 hour drive from AANE’s office in Watertown, MA
- Age: adults 21+
- Diagnosis: prospective participant identifies as Autistic
- Co-occurring conditions (e.g. acute mental health needs) reviewed on a case-by-case basis to ensure that prospective participants are connected to services that match their needs
- Interest in program: adult wants to participate in the program and is able to work with their team on their priorities
- Program Fees: The prospective adult and/or their family understand that LifeNet is a private-pay service, see tiers and fees immediately below
Which LifeNet tier is right for you?
More detail about the full array of service levels will be sent to those who complete the Contact form below.
Tier 1 – Comprehensive
The top level of LifeNet service for adults and their parents who want or need to activate the full support team structure now, given their age, health status, geographic distance or other factors. Comprehensive offers the most time and frequency of interactions between the adult client and their LifeNet Team members. Cost: $30,000/year, with a one-time intake/personal plan development fee of $1,000.
Tier 2 – Basic
A middle level of LifeNet service for those who need less time and support at this stage of the adult’s life than the Comprehensive level, but who want to put the support team in place now for a potential transition in the coming years. Cost: $15,000/year, with a one-time intake/personal plan development fee of $1,000.
Tier 3 – Introductory
An entry level of LifeNet service, with less frequent interactions than the Comprehensive and Basic tiers, for those who want to begin establishing new support relationships for their adult child now, with an eye toward moving to a higher level of service if and when needed in the future. Cost: $9,000/year, with a one-time intake/personal plan development fee of $1,000.
Clients have the ability to move between tiers as their needs change. Tier modifications are available for an added cost. More detail about the full array of service levels will be sent to those who complete the Contact form below.
Note: In order for AANE to cover our costs and launch this program in a financially sustainable way, there will be no financial aid available at the outset. However, we are actively building the evidence base proving the value of this new program, which we will bring to public and private funders to help make LifeNet accessible to all those who qualify, regardless of income or assets.
FAQs about LifeNet
Hello! Please find below some of the most frequently asked questions (‘FAQs’) we get here at LifeNet. If you have a question that is not addressed here, email us and we will consider adding it to this page!
FAQs From LifeNet Adults and/or their Family Members:
What does it mean/look like to “build rapport/relationship” with LifeNet Adults in Year 1 (the ‘Relationship Year’)?
Team members will build rapport and the relationship with a LifeNet adult in a number of clinically-informed ways including (but not limited to): engaging in discussion and sharing of activities that are personally interesting to the adult; getting to know/observing daily/weekly/monthly routines and structures; building trust and consistency in the meeting schedule; providing support and validation related to the central challenges in the adult’s life; building appreciation for an adult’s capabilities, strengths, and resiliency; empowering the adult as the “expert” in their own life to set priorities for support; building understanding into the priorities that the adult has identified (even if those priorities may be different from other team members’ priorities for the adult).
What is the difference between a Personal Advocate (PA) and Support Partner (SP)? Therapist and case manager? Friend and LifeNet team member?
PA and SP: A Personal Advocate (PA) is a clinician with education, training, and experience in a field like occupational therapy, mental health counseling, or social work – at LifeNet a PA leads the coordination between themselves and the SP to provide team-based support to clients. They tend to provide remote check-ins with clients, lead team meetings, and have collaborative conversations with other providers. A Support Partner (SP) is a direct care professional with experience and training working 1:1 with clients in their homes and communities – at LifeNet a SP works closely with the PA and LifeNet Adult to carry out activities in person with the client during longer visits. They participate in team meetings and contribute ideas for client support regularly.
Therapist and case manager: Therapists are clinicians that work with clients on individualized mental health goals while a case manager is a clinician that might help a client connect with a therapist and/or carry out some of the suggestions that a therapist makes. Therapists tend to focus on developing individualized treatment plans to support a client’s mental health or other specific goals. At LifeNet, a Case Manager/Personal Advocate is actively interested in working with clients on their day to day responsibilities, connecting them with additional specialized supports, and collaborating with other team members.
Friend and LifeNet team member: A friend is a fellow community member with whom one has a relationship because of willingness to mutually get to know each other, mutually support each other, and/or mutually share interests with. A LifeNet team member or employee is a paid professional with whom one has a relationship with because of mutual agreement that the client will receive services and support from the provider.
How do LifeNet team members communicate with each other for the benefit of the LifeNet Adult?
Personal Advocates (PAs) and Support Partners (SPs) meet regularly in 1:1 meetings (usually weekly) to discuss updates, observations, concerns, and recommendations regarding how LifeNet is and can be a support and advocate.
Who else is on the larger LifeNet team, beyond Personal Advocates (PAs) and Support Partners (SPs)?
Each LifeNet adult’s case is overseen by a Clinical Supervisor, who supports the primary PA and sometimes the primary SP. Additionally, all front-line staff and leadership in the LifeNet department engage in case consultations about each adult, to provide a forum for support and brainstorming to the primary team for best practices and support ideas. All front-line staff have access to relevant records in the event of the need for an on-call intervention.
What is the Clinical Supervisor’s (CS) role?
The Clinical Supervisor is an independently licensed professional who directs the clinical aspects of the program. The CS provides weekly and as needed supervision to frontline staff to develop optimal engagement and motivation, guide ongoing education, and provide support. The CS also guides the clinical eligibility screening for new clients to ensure goodness of fit, often collaborating with existing providers and other team members during that process. The CS provides ad hoc consultation and support to clients directly from time to time and provides clinical consultation to staff during crises.
What happens when members of my LifeNet team have time off?
When staff are on vacation or have other time off, PA check-ins or SP visits may be canceled, rescheduled, shortened, and/or covered by another team member – this depends on staff availability, client preference, and client need. The LifeNet team will communicate changes ahead of time when possible (i.e., for scheduled vacation days or closed AANE holidays). We appreciate your understanding and flexibility with scheduling to allow our staff time to rest and recharge in order to best support you!
What happens when LifeNet Adults do not attend their scheduled meetings or need to reschedule?
Rescheduling requests are welcomed when needed and are subject to staffing availability. We aim to be flexible and make every effort to meet at the frequency intended but cannot 100% guarantee accommodation of reschedule requests, especially when made with limited notice or when due to a no show (not attending scheduled meeting and no communication/response to staff outreach). Additional details of attendance and no-show policy are below:
LifeNet relies on adults to participate in PA check-ins and SP visits as outlined in their LifeNet Support Plan, unless modifications are made in advance. We respond to no-shows in the following ways:
PA check-ins: If a LifeNet adult is unable to be reached by a PA for a scheduled PA check-in, the PA may continue to reach out to the adult.
If the adult is not reached by the time of the next scheduled check-in, the PA will reach out to the adult’s emergency or other contacts.
SP visits: If a LifeNet adult does not show for a scheduled in-person SP visit, the PA may continue to reach out to the adult through the next 24 hours.
If the adult still cannot be reached after 24 hours, the PA will reach out to the adult’s emergency or other contacts. If there is no response from the contacts and/or the LifeNet adult for an additional 24 hours, LifeNet will initiate an in-person wellness check by staff and/or local police.
Depending on the specific adult and situation, LifeNet may adjust these steps with an individual. If attendance is a persistent challenge despite adaptations and interventions, staff will review a detailed participation agreement and may recommend alternative services that are more accessible and/or on-site for the adult.
Does LifeNet treat in-person and virtual (e.g. for SP visits) as the same?
In person SP visits are strongly encouraged and preferred. However, there are instances when an in-person visit is not possible due to scheduling conflicts, illness, inclement weather, or other circumstances. If a virtual visit is offered and accepted, an additional “make-up” in person SP visit will not be scheduled. In person SP visits will resume as soon as possible and part of the standing schedule of support visits.
Traditionally, LifeNet adults are offered in person SP visit time up to 2 hours at the frequency per month outlined by the service tier. The frequency of SP visits per month outlines the frequency of SP travel time allotted. Nontraditionally, some adults prefer to increase the frequency of SP contact while maintaining the total amount of time together – this schedule modification is considered on a case by case basis and subject to scheduling availability; when the frequency of SP contact is increased, some points of contact must be virtual to allow the allotted travel time to remain the same.
Does the cost of LifeNet change during the modified schedule period of Summer and Winter Block?
Payments do not change during Summer and Winter blocks. During these periods we offer the same “amount” of support to all adults, even though the support may look different. For example, there may be additional planning, administrative record keeping, and small group offerings despite fewer or different 1:1 PA check-ins or SP visits.
What is the purpose of on call for LifeNet Adults? Why is my Personal Advocate or Support Partner not always available?
PA and SPs are not available 24/7 because at AANE LifeNet we support maintaining a boundary between work and personal life – time for staff to recharge sustains engagement in the program during work hours, reducing staff turnover. LifeNet offers an on call service for urgent problems that cannot wait until the next business day and that do not necessitate other emergency services. On call is staffed by various LifeNet team members who may or may not work directly with the LifeNet Adult. Team members who work on call have access to relevant records for any adult who may call on call, and we find that most on call situations require acute problem solving support vs. in-depth knowledge of a client’s history. LifeNet adults are invited to attend small group events and other gatherings to get to know additional team members if they would like.
Additional details of On Call are below:
Because problems can happen outside of traditional business hours (e.g. 9am-6pm), LifeNet offers on-call support to LifeNet adults when an issue arises that cannot wait until the following business day. This on-call service is available evenings, weekends, and holidays to offer timely and brief problem-solving support and/or connect LifeNet adults to appropriate emergency services when needed. On-call is staffed by LifeNet team members and while we cannot guarantee the staff is awake and/or immediately available 24×7, we respond as soon as messages are seen.
Because on-call LifeNet staff support is not available in-person and AANE is unable to hold a copy of clients’ personal keys to their residence, we encourage LifeNet adults to establish a “locked-out” problem solving plan. This can be stored in our client record management software as a reference for the on-call staff to prompt/orient the adult in need to their personalized plan (i.e., telephone numbers for the landlord, or name/contact for a personal contact who has a spare key, etc.).
We ask that LifeNet adults do not use on-call in the following instances:
If there is a life-threatening emergency. Instead, call 9-1-1.
If the need is not urgent. Instead, please send an email message to be seen the next business day or bring it to the next scheduled meeting.
If a LifeNet adult misuses on-call, alternative resources or strategies will be identified and offered; if misuse continues, LifeNet may revoke the individual’s access to on-call.
How will I know if the program is working? How does LifeNet measure “progress”?
We evaluate the LifeNet program differently for each individual adult, as the priorities for each adult and the program designed to support them is different. Generally, we look for “markers” that the program is building an adult’s capacity to live the life they want for themselves as connected with the adult’s identified priorities. Some examples may include: an adult reports that they feel more confident at work after navigating a conflict successfully; an adult utilizes the program for support when they encounter a challenge in the community; an adult maintains their ability to pay their bills on time despite transitions in living situation or income; an adult forges or maintains a romantic relationship; an adult learns to cook a new meal and does so consistently; an adult learns to ride public transportation so they can navigate their city more effectively. Those are only some examples! As a team, we are continually striving to improve the effectiveness of our interventions in order to maximize adults moving forward or maintaining momentum in their priorities. We do this through an ongoing process of assessment and evaluation (using evidence based instruments, quantitative and qualitative data collected from program participants including family members, and consultation), supervision, and collaboration with internal and external team members. We also make space at regular intervals to come together as a team and discuss how things are going so that everyone’s voice is heard while respecting an adult’s self-determination.
What is the timeline for supporting LifeNet Adults around multiple priorities?
LifeNet team members are trained to go at an adult’s pace and at their direction. Building capacity to manage multiple priorities at once is always within scope, but may take time to develop. We have found that capitalizing on an adult’s own intrinsic motivation for making progress on their priorities rather than being more directive is the best way to make consistent progress over the long term. LifeNet is not a short term, goal oriented program; it is designed to set adults up for success in building the life they want over the entire life course.
How can LifeNet Adults meet other adults in LifeNet and/or make new friends?
LifeNet Adults are invited to meet other adults at small group activities which are offered weekly and at annual (or semi-annual) adult and family member community gatherings. A third way that adults in LifeNet can meet peers in the program is by telling their PA and SP that this a priority for them, and asking for help in identifying opportunities to develop new relationships. Some adults choose to connect 1:1 with peers in the program to talk or do an activity that is a shared interest. LifeNet does not mandate participation in social activities or peer matching.
What if a LifeNet Adult wants more support in skill development in a certain area?
LifeNet team members will consistently be assessing skills in the adult’s prioritized areas. When a skill development area is identified and aligns with the LifeNet Adult’s priorities, LifeNet staff may offer direct teaching for skills within the scope of LifeNet or make referrals to other professionals and services who can provide specific skill development support in the identified area.
Can you help LifeNet Adults get a job? Go back to school? Get an apartment?
LifeNet can support adults who identify these priorities in a number of ways. However, LifeNet staff are not job coaches, tutors, or realtors, and will often collaborate with professionals to support areas that are outside of the program’s scope.
Why can’t the Support Partner clean the LifeNet Adult’s apartment consistently?
LifeNet is a case management program with some focus on skill building. To that end, team members sometimes teach skills such as home maintenance and organization as a part of regular engagement with an adult. However, if the need or the desire of the adult is to have consistent cleaning and there are barriers to building that skill or following through, LifeNet would assist the adult and family in problem solving availability of resources that may be added to an adult’s team. LifeNet is not meant to provide services over the long term (such as cleaning, tutoring, therapy, etc.) although team members may have training or expertise in those areas; as the program focuses on managing the needs of the entire person rather than filling holes in an adult’s team of supports indefinitely.
What if LifeNet sees the LifeNet Adult needs more (or less) support than they’re currently getting?
We are continually evaluating goodness of fit both overall and within the service tier in formal and informal ways including tracking time use/allocation through our electronic case management system. If there is a discrepancy between tier and utilization, it will be a topic of discussion both with the adult and the payor to determine barriers, increase engagement and effectiveness, or potentially to up or down tier, depending on the needs and desires of the adult.
What if LifeNet sees a concern with the LifeNet Adult?
LifeNet’s staff are skilled at identifying and managing risks and concerns that may arise with the adults we work with. When a concern arises, LifeNet will work directly with the adult to review the concern and move towards a solution. Some concerns may be addressed quickly while others may take more time and depend on the readiness of the adult to participate in the problem solving process. Depending on the circumstance, this may include bringing in various other members of their support team. For example, if a mental health emergency arises LifeNet will support the adult in accessing their current mental health providers or emergency services. Similarly, if an issue arises at work and the adult has a job coach on their team we might support the adult in communicating with the job coach to gain further support. If they do not have an existing job coach, we might use this as an opportunity to pursue adding one to the adult’s team.
How do you approach privacy/confidentiality?
We believe privacy and confidentiality are both key ingredients to building trusted, long-term relationships between the LifeNet Adult and their LifeNet team. LifeNet Adults are asked to sign Release of Information consent forms for family and other team members who they wish LifeNet to be in touch with. In addition, we work to support our LifeNet adults in participating in communication with their various team members in the ways that work best for them.
What if there are concerns about whether LifeNet is the “right” program for the LifeNet Adult?
LifeNet begins by completing an initial assessment to determine whether an adult is interested and their needs are a good fit for what the program can provide. After enrollment, LifeNet is continually assessing the appropriateness and fit of services offered to an adult. These conversations are part of weekly case consultation with peers and supervisors, with special attention paid during the first 90 days of enrollment and when life circumstances shift. These conversations will first occur within the LifeNet team and may eventually be brought directly to the individual adult and/or the wider team. Initially, collaborative problem solving and information gathering will be the focus, and depending on the input from team members, a shift in tier or an alternative service/program may be recommended.
FAQs From LifeNet Family Members:
How can I best support my Adult Family Member in LifeNet?
This is a great question! Be curious about the work that is being done and the relationships being built; be proud that your Adult Family Member is willing to invest a great deal of time in building these relationships; be open to recognizing the successes that take place, both large and small!
How often will I as a parent/family member/payor get updates on the “progress” for my Adult Family Member?
As a rule, LifeNet staff do not provide regular “progress updates” as a part of the program structure unless this is a priority for the adult. Even if the latter is true, it is likely that LifeNet staff would work with the adult to build their ability to communicate directly with their family over time. LifeNet staff spend the majority of their time supporting the adult directly and designing and implementing interventions related to the adult’s priorities. Depending on the service tier, an adult will be offered opportunities for “team meetings” throughout the year, and adults are encouraged to invite family members to those meetings to share progress, updates, and challenges.
How can you effectively support my Adult Family Member without knowing everything I know?
We understand the instinct to want to tell us everything you know about your Adult Family Member and the knowledge that a family member builds over the life course is invaluable! The fact is that no one will ever be able to replace or convey the knowledge that a family member builds throughout years and years of advocacy and support. The good news is that our team members are experts at getting to know our adults, asking for support from family members and other collaborators, meeting the adult where they are, and beginning to work on priorities at their pace. The benefit of having a trained case manager on the team is that family members can settle into the role of “mom” or “brother” and not have to engage in some of the tasks that case management professionals can easily do. Our staff can not replace parents or other caregivers in supporting adults; the way that they provide support will be different, which can understandably be frustrating and scary when family members imagine no longer being as involved. This discomfort requires a great deal of trust from the families of the adults that we support, and we can not explain how thankful we are to be trusted by so many adults and families!
Can I sit in on visits w/ my Adult Family Member and LifeNet staff?
We have found that having space that is confidential and reserved expressly for the adult’s voice is the best way to build a secure and trusting relationship. Adults often invite family members to attend team meetings throughout the year, but our regularly scheduled check ins and support partner visits are usually between the adults and our staff.
Are you available to parents and family members like you are available to the LifeNet Adult outside of scheduled team meetings/ad hoc?
The program focuses on supporting the adult primarily, and caseloads are balanced to provide direct support to adults. When PAs or SPs spend regular time communicating with family members, it eventually does reduce the time available to the adult themself. As a program, we also try to foster a healthy work/life balance in our employees, with the specific goal of creating a sustainable workplace where people can work for many years. This is beneficial for everyone, including our adults. Maintaining this environment does sometimes require that our staff say no or delay responding to family members in order to respond appropriately to the adults on their caseload during their work time.
Is there an on-call service for parents and family members?
We do not offer on call for parents or family members of adults. Due to the adult-centered nature of the program, we wish to hone our ability to support the adult directly and their ability to reach out for support from non-family. Adults may always reach out to program staff with concerns and staff will respond as indicated.
Why are suggestions for agenda items from parents or family members not always included in my LifeNet adult’s meetings? Why are priorities suggested by parents or family members not always included in the LifeNet Support Plan (LSP)?
Our goal is always to put the adult in the “driver’s seat” in setting agendas and priorities with LifeNet. Of course, this role may be new to adults and learning to be directive, asking for what you need, and recognizing the things that need to be supported are skills within themselves! For many adults, the first year or even longer in the program is focused on building skills in this area. We have found that too much input from members of the team for whom these skills are well developed interferes with the process of assisting adults in finding their voice and directing the course of the program. While our process is generally collaborative, the LifeNet Adult has the final say on what is or is not part of their LSP and meetings.
What could I expect if LifeNet had concerns about my Adult Family Member?
Our first priority is always managing risk in a safe and effective manner. If LifeNet staff had concerns about an adult, we would follow internal protocols to manage those concerns safely, which may include contacting emergency services, emergency contacts, or other resources. However, non-emergent concerns are handled in a more collaborative, nuanced manner, understanding that change doesn’t happen overnight, allowing for the relationship to develop between the program and an adult, and honoring the programmatic goal of being adult-centered. The personal advocate is the main point of contact regarding concerns and has specialized and advanced training in managing risk and increasing motivation.
What if my Adult Family Member asks LifeNet not to disclose something we as parents or family members would want to know?
While we understand LifeNet family members’ interest in their Adult Family Member’s life, LifeNet follows traditional confidentiality practices and respects the LifeNet adult’s voice in what information they would like shared with other members of their team. The exception to this is situations where there are concerns for the LifeNet adult’s immediate safety or the safety of someone else. In these specific situations, safety is the priority and we work to inform all appropriate parties. In situations where there is not an immediate safety risk, we often work with our LifeNet adults to understand the perspective of others and develop ways of communication that respect the LifeNet adult’s wishes and allow for information to be shared.
What if my adult isn’t sharing something important with you?
At LifeNet, we believe in the principles of self-determination and a “dignity of risk” perspective in which all adults have the right to make decisions about their own lives and that all decisions may not result in positive experiences. We also believe everyone deserves support for making decisions if and when they desire it. In line with this perspective, we work with our LifeNet adults to foster informed decision making skills while respecting their right to self-determination. At times, this may lead to decisions with expected or unexpected consequences. While these may be uncomfortable times for the LifeNet adult, family members, and others on their team, these times also offer opportunities for learning, growth, and greater insight for future decision making. LifeNet does not aim to eliminate every problem or natural consequence from the adult’s life. Instead we look to be a consistent, understanding support for our adults and families to navigate the ups and downs that are inherent to the universal human experience.
Who can I talk to about “program concerns” or share feedback and/or complaints with?
Typically, it is most effective to first bring concerns to the assigned Personal Advocate. When needed, the Program Director is also available to later contribute to discussions.
We’re interested in learning more. What is my next step?
LifeNet began supporting eligible adults in Greater Boston/Eastern Massachusetts in 2019. We are now conducting eligibility screenings and will enroll eligible adults either as individual openings arise in the months ahead, or as part of the next planned group of ~12-14 new LifeNet adults for service beginning as soon as Fall 2023.
If you are considering enrollment in LifeNet, please complete the no-obligation form below and click Submit. We will then follow up with you with more information about LifeNet to help you decide and take next steps.
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