Ehlert notes that it's important to begin thinking about adult living while your child with autism is still young. In part, that's because children with autism are usually eligible for special needs and transition programs through their schools, which means that your child's educational program can be crafted to support your plans for the future. It's also because the process of thinking through, planning for and creating an ideal living situation for a person on the autism spectrum may take a long time.
Step One - Envision an Ideal Setting for Your Adult Child With AutismAll parents, Ehlert says, want their children to be "safe and happy" as adults. But every parent has a different vision of what "safe and happy" might look like. That vision, she says, depends as much on the parent's experience and attitudes as on the child's abilities and preferences. Still, it's important for parents to start thinking about their own vision for their child's future before making any concrete actions.
Where would your child thrive? In a city? On a farm? On his own? With a group? At home with parents? In essence, says Ehlert, there are five general living options available:
- At home with family
- Apartment with services that come in and check on residents (make sure they are paying bills, cleaning, etc.) These are living support services, and they could be privately or publically funded.
- Housing unit program/roommate -- individuals live in a house or apartment building that belongs to a structured support group; caregiver makes sure everyone is OK at night, runs programs, etc.
- Group home (community integrated living arrangement) -- caregiver lives on site
- "Dorm-style," large facilities (institutional settings, very low level workshop living)
Step Two - Determine if Your Ideal Setting ExistsOnce parents (or parents and their teenage children with autism) have identified an ideal living situation, the next step is to determine whether such as setting already exists or whether the family will have to create the setting. A surprising number of parents are involved with or considering involvement with the creation of a residential setting for their child with autism. Some are funding or developing supportive living situations; others are envisioning and creating work/home settings in towns, cities, and rural areas.
Often, information about adult living situations in your state or province is available through school district sources. If not, you may need to look into the Department of Developmental Disabilities, Department of Public Welfare, or other appropriate agency. Do your homework to determine what's out there.