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Innovative Housing Option for Young Adults with Autism

By May 17, 2010

When a young child is diagnosed with autism, resources are available.  From early intervention to special education to medical benefits, most families find at least a moderate degree of help in providing evaluations, therapies and education for their child.

Then, their "child" hits the magic age of 21, and many of the benefits simply evaporate.

If an individual with autism is profoundly disabled and unable to work at all, social security may be an option. But in this day and age, many young adults on the spectrum are neither profoundly disabled nor "just fine." In fact, while they're capable and responsible, they're also coping with significant challenges in areas such as social communication, sensory issues and executive function (organizational skills). They may also have a tough time with related disorders such as social anxiety or depression.

What happens next? The answer is very unclear - and many families are struggling to find the right setting and types of support for an adult with autism who can work and manage many situations, but can't simply move out and live on his or her own.

Some families with young adult children on the spectrum have gotten creative and taken the future into their own hands. Today, an article in the Portland Press Herald in Maine describes a group of families who have done just that:

Their plan: Rather than wait for state-funded housing that might never materialize, transform the property into a nine-bedroom condominium for young adults with developmental disabilities. Each resident's family would own his or her bedroom and share a common kitchen, living room and other communal space.

Working with Specialized Housing Inc., a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that has used the same model successfully in that state, the Bulgers spent the next two years making it happen.

You'll want to read the article in full to find out how the group was able to access public funding for certain aspects of the project, and where they're heading for the future. You may also be interested to see the pricetag for living in this innovative situation: the initial cost is about $150,000 for a condo, then the monthly fee is $1700 per individual. This amount is not slight - but it's dramatically less than, say, the cost of an autism-only private school.

Are you creating a housing situation similar to the one created in Portland, Maine? Or are you struggling to find the right setting for a young adult with autism? Share your story - and let us know about resources you've discovered or created!

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Comments
May 17, 2010 at 11:39 am
(1) Dadvocate says:

Congratulations to all affiliated with this group. Thanks for highlighting them, Lisa.

It’s very clear that our community is going to need a ton more innovation in housing and employment if even a fraction of the existing and future demand is to be met. Keep in mind that design and operational constraints (program limitations, staffing ratios, etc) prevent many with autism from successfully utilizing traditional housing options for people with developmental disabilities.

Another innovative solution gaining popularity are agricultural communities for adults with autism. One community, Safe Haven Farms, is opening today!
Like many agricultural communities, they have a waiting list from day one and turnover of residents is likely to be close to nil.
http://www.safehavenfarms.org/

Agricultural communities for adults with autism are being devloped all over country, most have taken their inspiration from 25 year old Bittersweet Farms.

For those who want to learn more about housing options and funding streams, this new, detailed 100 page report from SARRC is an absolute must read:
http://www.autismcenter.org/openingdoors.aspx

May 17, 2010 at 12:55 pm
(2) Bill says:

The cited example sounds awfully expensive.

I helped my Aspie son buy a home with apartments, with the intent that the rental income would help support him.
(he is marginally employable and I expect him to often be unemployed). So far, it has been a financial disaster for he has set the home on fire once, and flooded it multiple times. The plaster ceilings have fallen apart, and the hardwood floors have curled and twisted like noodles.
He lets street people stay there, and his stuff is often stolen. He can’t manage his money. He accumulates strays and they urinate on the floors.
He is too smart, too normal appearing to the casual observer to institutionalize, and I doubt I can get him social security because he is capable of working, yet he is too indiscriminate and disorganized to run his own life.
In a different era I think he might have ended up living in a county home.
Current strategy is to waterproof his home with floor drains in all the bathrooms and kitchen and basement.

May 17, 2010 at 2:21 pm
(3) Sandy says:

In the state I live, there is RISE https://www.rise.org/ click under About Us to read how it was started. When my nephew became disabled as an adult, he entered RISE and had job and housing assistance with supports. It’s too bad each state doesn’t have such a place as this to help adults.

May 17, 2010 at 5:37 pm
(4) Amalia Starr says:

I am a mother of a 36 year old son named Brandon. He has Asperger’s, intractable epilepsy, and severe learning disorders. The professionals who worked with my son said he would never be able to live alone. The were wrong. Brandon has been on his own for the past 13 years , enjoying his indepenence. I am a autism independent living counselor and wrote a book, Raising Brandon, where i explain the steps in how I was able to help my son live his dream of independence. As anindependent living coach I help other parents help their children reach their full potential. Living alone is not for every child, but helping our children/adults live their best life possible is every parent’s dream. It is projected that in the next 15 years 500,000 autistic children with reach adulthood. Will you and your child be ready. You can call me for a free phone consultation at 800-939-1046 or visit my website at http://AmaliaStarrSpeakerAutism.com I am here to help any way I can.
Amalia Starr

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