Independent Living

Students at OPTIONS live in supervised apartments with other college-aged students within the small Midwest town of Carbondale, Illinois, located near the OPTIONS instructional building and the Southern Illinois University campus.

Each fully furnished apartment with luxury amenities is shared by three students. Each student has his or her own private bedroom and bathroom. Each apartment has a full-size washer and dryer. The kitchen appliances include a dishwasher. Cable and Internet access are included. The apartment complex includes an indoor pool, an exercise room, basketball hoops, and bag toss areas. Whenever students are present, the apartments are supervised by Independent Living Counselors, Academic Coaches, and Life Skills Aides, who offer instruction and support as well as overseeing activities.

Countless, real-life, teachable moments arise during the course of evenings and weekends that help move the students toward healthy relationships and independence. The components of the Independent Living Program are strategically designed based on OPTIONS’ experience and expertise. OPTIONS Independent Living Staff offers instruction and assistance in self-management, health and wellness, culinary skills, social strategies, study hours, and recreation.


OPTIONS staff realizes that it is important for students to be able to manage the activities of daily life. When students need it, they can receive assistance and instruction in the areas of self-management. Typically, this might include personal hygiene, laundry, fiscal responsibility, time management, interpersonal relationships, maintaining a clean personal space, managing emotions, prioritizing, advocating, and using community resources. OPTIONS has many systems in place to address student needs, and OPTIONS students can take advantage of guidance in any or all of these areas.

Health & Wellness

OPTIONS is committed to focusing on prevention as well as supporting students in taking responsibility for their own health and well being. OPTIONS has a Nursing team that oversees medication management and provides support and assistance should a student have a medical issue. OPTIONS will work closely with the student, the family, and the student’s psychologist and/or psychiatrist to manage medication and provide continuity and support. OPTIONS also sponsors a walking group and a yoga group in addition to the physical education class at the community college. The Independent Living staff works with students on making good nutrition choices and monitoring portion sizes. OPTIONS’ goal is to assist its students in establishing lifelong health and wellness routines.

Culinary Instruction

OPTIONS students have many opportunities to acquire skills in planning and preparing nutritious meals. The Independent Living staff works with each apartment to plan weekly menus, make inclusive grocery lists, purchase groceries, and prepare meals. Initially, and until the student demonstrates competency, staff will be present when the student shops for groceries and cooks. Students rotate evening meal preparation and grocery shopping among the apartment-mates. Every other week, students participate in a Culinary Diversity Dinner, where they prepare dishes to share and often step outside of their culinary comfort zone to taste new foods. OPTIONS uses community resources to expose students to a variety of culinary experiences and to help establish healthy and nutritious eating habits.

Study Hours

OPTIONS recognizes the importance of successfully completing coursework and acquiring or implementing study skills. Five nights a week, students participate in supervised study hours in their apartments. Academic coaches are on hand to tutor and assist students. Although students are expected to use a personal system to record assignments, there is daily communication between the Academic staff and the Independent Living staff regarding students’ assignments. During each study session, students prioritize, implement strategies, use resources, and put their study skills to use.

The Carbondale Fire Department teaches students the P.A.S.S (Pull – Aim – Squeeze – Sweep) method to safely put out small fires with a fire extinguisher.