While raising a child with autism is a day to day journey, in the back of every parent’s mind is what level of independence their child will eventually achieve. Where and how will they live?
Lately, I’ve been coming across articles about concerned parents coming together to generate living spaces for their children. In Canada, a group of parents designed an apartment house for their young adults on the spectrum to dwell in, complete with quarters for live-in aides. It enjoyed underwriting by the Canadian government, but unfortunately stalled due to the economic downturn. The parents still vow to replace promised funds and see the finished architectural renderings become a dream home for their children.
In Asheville, North Carolina, Jesse Willis, aged 29, is severely autistic yet lives in a house with two roommates and holds down a restaurant job. Independence from his parents was once thought an impossibility, but the three men’s parents bought the house and the Autism Society of North Carolina pays for the live-in staff that provide their around-the-clock oversight. The community is embracing Jesse and he enjoys a good life, a life his parent’s never dared dream for him.
Strength obviously springs from families of adults on the autism spectrum coming together to generate workable solutions. The collaboration between (albeit it undependable) government and families and the partnership between families and state autism societies are exciting aspects of these stories.
The weakness lies in a parent who cannot afford to kick in financially for their child’s housing. Their economic stake should be provided by a foundation or charity so that they too can participate in this creative problem solving.
With my sons having just started high school, their transition to adulthood is moving from the back burner to the front. Now, I’m thinking over who they could live communally with, what level of support they would need and what groups are available within the community to participate in a plan. It’s good to be able to think creatively about the next phase of their lives instead of merely experiencing apprehension over their futures.