TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (AP) – Colby Spangler, 22, may not seem like much in common with singer Britney Spears.
The young Shelby County man played music in his high school band, but is now focusing on wildlife studies thanks to a program offered by the University of Alabama for students with developmental disabilities. Spangler, who is in his final year of study, works part-time, belongs to a fraternity and lives in an apartment.
But his mother, Kim Spangler, said her son was in “the pipeline from school to guardianship” until he entered high school. Many well-meaning people involved in special education advised him to apply for guardianship at the age of 19 so that he could continue to receive services.
“The schools will tell you as soon as they turn 19 you have to become their tutor,” said Kim Spangler. “So we just sort of believed that. The more we researched, the more we realized that it wasn’t absolutely necessary.
Instead of entering a guardianship, like the one Spears had recently dissolved, Spangler and his family have opted for an alternative that gives him more control. This is called assisted decision making, and the system surrounds him with the support of his friends and family.
Spangler’s decision-making team consists of several people who can offer advice on everything from social life to finances. Kim Spangler said it took about a year and a half to build her son’s team. It has nine people who each cover specific areas such as independent living, security and spiritual growth. They can advise and help guide Spangler, but ultimately he’s the one who makes the decisions.