Greater need for Residential Communities for adults with Autism

CC BY-NC-ND by Will Lion

CC BY-NC-ND by Will Lion

Statistics can be unsettling, but also a way to mobilize. According to Montana ASA, at least 80% of autistic adults between the ages of 18 and 30 live with their parents. The unemployment rate of autistic adults is 81%. In the next ten years, around 500,000 children with autism will become adults. Thousands have been on waiting lists for services for many years.

So what does their future look like? Is there hope that adults with the varying challenges of autism can live on their own, work, and experience human community, versus living out lives marked by alienation? While the solutions are complicated there is positive progress in many areas. Three organizations in the USA are making “community-based care” a reality.

Sweetwater Spectrum has paved the way in making this hope become a reality for autistic adults. Conceived by parents of children with autism, along with experts on autism, Sweetwater Spectrum is a non-profit residential community that was built with the intent of giving autistic adults an opportunity to discover their own paths in life as they live, grow, and flourish within an environment suited to their particular needs.

The Sweetwater board of directors enlisted Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (LMS) to design the housing unit with the needs of its resident as the basis for material selection and layout decisions. LMS constructed a “nesting pattern” that allows a resident to ease into a social situation, and on a larger scale, to ease into the community beyond Sweetwater. Sweetwater Spectrum is not the only model designed to build up a productive community among adults with autism.

Inspired by the success that working on a farm has had on her autistic adult son, Catherine Pinto, along with a board of 8 parents and professionals, formed a non-profit organization in 2011 to organize farm-related employment and permanent living in Kalamazoo, MI. AACORN stands for, Autism Agricultural Community Option for Residential Needs Farm (AACORN Farm), has since received 501c3 status as tax-exempt in June 2013, which permits them to receive monetary and land donations, as well as grants. AACORN belongs to AC-AA, Agricultural Communities for Adults with Autism (ACAA), a consortium of existing and in-formation organizations focused on sharing best practices and advocating for holistic, agricultural  based employment and housing models for adults with autism.

The mission of AACORN Farm is to “provide a dynamic residential and vocational program for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder in an agricultural community that supports individuals in reaching their full potential through meaningful interactions, work, and leisure activities.”

Some have criticized farm-based communities as too segregated, but AACORN Farm upholds that an agricultural setting is ideal for individuals with autism, since it is a low key environment with ample opportunity to learn, make a living, and interact with other autistic adults and people in the surrounding community.

Triform Camphill Community in New York was built on a similar model of community among autistic adults with the cultivation of independence and interdependence, but different in that adults on the autism spectrum live there for a time as students, then graduate. But even these transition communities have their place. Graduates from Triform Camphill Community can seek to live at places like Richmond House in VA. Another non-profit organization, Richmond House offers housing, structure and support, and a lively social environment specifically for adults with autism.

It is clear to everyone that there could be and should be more of these residential communities. Unfortunately, funding is always an issue and there the issue of how to define  “community-based care. ” In the current US legislation it  remains open to interpretation.

The Agricultural Communities for Adults with Autism (ACAA) is dedicated to advancing options for adults with autism.  According to the ac-aa organization, creating a residential community is “difficult but not impossible.”

Correction:  AACORN Farm does not oversee other organizations in formation as previously reported. The ac-aa organization is a consortium of groups who are working to create farm based options all over the USA of which there are at least 35 existing and planned community  farmstead living options for adults with autism.

Top Stories and Breaking News

Media perceptions of Asperger’s and violent crime is misinformed

Editor’s Note: Autism Daily Newscast chose not to report on last week’s shooting in Oregon as we felt it was not important to publicize this tragedy to the autism community. We waited to see how mainstream media would report it. Initially we were glad to see the focus on gun control. Unfortunately, once again media is perpetuating false […]

Autism community reaction to Liz Feld stepping down from her post as President of Autism Speaks

Monday it was announced that Liz Feld, President of Autism Speaks is to step down from her role. Interestingly enough, no official press release has been issued by Autism Speaks, but Disability Scoop ran the story which can be read here. Nor has Feld made any comments on Twitter. In a statement Liz Feld told that she […]

Controversy surrounding services provided by Service Dogs Europe

Dundalk Ireland – Service Dogs Europe (SDE) provide Service Dogs for children and adults with a wide range of disabilities and additional needs. One such service is that of an Autism Assistance Dog. The information stated on their website about this service reads as follows: ‘Service Dogs Europe, Autism Service Dog Program focuses on improving […]

Ashley Isaacson About Ashley Isaacson

Ashley Isaacson writes fiction and journals about storytelling and faith on her new blog site. She's excited to publish one of her novellas before the end of the year. It was her close association with Learning Rx (a franchise training center that strengthens the cognitive abilities of students) that she became aware of autism. As a writer for Autism Daily Newscast, she likes being able to report on topics that concern human growth, development, and fulfillment.