Assessing a Group Home for Your Adult Child with Autism

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • As parents, we want what is best for our children, even when they are adults. We want to keep them safe, protected and make sure they know they are loved. When your child has autism, however, the best way to do that isn’t always in our homes. Sometimes,  our children need more than we can give. Sometimes they need specialized medical care or around-the-clock supervision. In these cases, parents might look into supervised living arrangements or group homes.


    Supervised living arrangements are when your adult child lives independently, either alone or with roommates, but services and supports have been put into place that are available 24 hours a day. Different community resources can be used for transportation, teaching life skills, medical care, therapies and supervision. In group homes, several adults with disabilities live together, with aides on staff around the clock. Independent life skills are taught and practiced on a daily basis. The staff also provides transportation and supervision for recreational actiivities and medical care.

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    Your search for the best place for your adult child should start early, even before he or she reaches adulthood. Many residential programs have waiting lists and the sooner you research and decide where your child would be best served, the sooner he or she can be placed on the waiting list.


    Start by talking with your child’s treatment team to assess your child’s skills and determine which type of adult living arrangement would be best. Therapists and other medical professionals who have and are treating your child can give you information on what services they believe your child will continue to need. The treatment team can also be a valuable resource in locating residential programs in your area. There are also some websites that provide information on programs. Foundations for Autism Support and Training and Friendship Circle are good places to start.


    Make a list of all residential programs you are considering. These might be in your area or you might have to go outside of your area to find the best possible placement. Once you have created a list, make appointments to visit each program. Allow yourself enough time at each to ask many questions and look around the facilities as well as talk with the staff.

    • Be prepared with questions. Some of the questions you might want to ask include:
    • How long has the provider been operating the home?
    • How much experience does the staff have with adults with autism? What types of ongoing training is provided?
    • How long is a typical shift for staff members?
    • What is the staff to resident ratio? Is this different overnight? On weekends? During off-site activities?
    • What happens when a staff members calls in sick?
    • What is the staff turnover rate?
    • Are background checks completed on staff members?
    • What languages do the staff speak? (if needed)
    • How does the staff help residents transition to their new home? Can my family member join some of the activities before moving to the home to make the transition easier?
    • What is the procedure for dealing with emergencies?
    • How is a typical day structured? What is a typical schedule?
    • How often are the residents taken out for recreational activities? What types of activities? Who supervises the activities? Are activities planned with the families as well?
    • How will my family be involved in creating and maintaining treatment plans?
    • Can I visit the program unannounced?
    • Can I talk with the families of the other residents?
    • Is there a waiting list? How long is the waiting list?


  • Besides being prepared with questions, you want to look around the facilities and make sure everything looks clean and orderly. Notice how the staff is dressed (professional or casual) and pay attention to how the staff interact with residents. Discuss whether the home accepts Medicaid waivers (they agree to accept the amount Medicaid provides) or, if you are paying for the home, discuss how and when payments are to be made. Ask about what funding is available.

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    Unfortunately, because of the high demand, many times you don’t have a choice of several different residential programs. Sometimes, you will wait years for an opening and then, there is only one choice. Even so, it is important for you to make sure your child, or loved one, will be well taken care of and feel comfortable in the new setting. Don’t say “yes” because there is an opening. Say “yes” because it is the right choice.


Published On: January 20, 2015