As more and more people with autism are identified, the number of young adults with autism looking to move out, on their own, will also increase. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person has their own unique set of needs in order to live on their own. Some might be able to live independently with minimal support while others might need a supervised setting. There are a number of ways to live independently. The first step is to understand the different forms of housing.
Supported living - This type of housing allows for an individual to live on their own, in an apartment or house. You might live alone or have roommates. Many adults with autism still need some supports, although this might be minimal. Support can mean help with food shopping, budgeting, getting to doctor’s appointments or getting to work each day. Support can come from family members, friends or community resources. With supportive living, you should be able to take care of your daily needs, such as daily hygiene, cooking and cleaning.
Group homes - A group home is where several people (frequently anywhere from three to ten people) live in a group, residential home owned and operated by an outside agency. The home is staffed with people who can help further independent living skills, provide transportation to community activities and doctor’s appointments, plan group outings, and monitor medications. Less frequently, a home can be operated by a cooperative, which is several families with individuals with disabilities who band together to purchase (or rent) a home and employ the staff.
Assisted living facilities - These types of facilities usually have a home-like atmosphere and offer small apartments for each resident. Each person can be completely independent or can utilize support services for daily grooming and meals. Assisted living facilities do not offer complex medical care, however, some can assist with medications (depending on your state’s laws.)
Family homes - There may be families (or couples) in your area that provide living arrangements for adults with disabilities. The family, or couple, are considered "teaching parents" and provide instruction in independent living skills. This type of program allows adults with autism to move from their parent’s home but still provides a loving, instructional environment to continue building skills. Some couples choose to work with one adult at a time while others may have several adults with disabilities living in the home.
Farm and ranch communities - There are a number of farm or ranch communities throughout the United States for individuals with autism and other disabilities. Individuals live within the community and participate in the different jobs and responsibilities of living on a farm or ranch. Additional support services can be used, much like those in supported living arrangements. The farms offer a way to learn a skill, socialize with others, and be productive members of not only their community but the community around them.
Each individual with autism, along with your family, should look at all the options available and determine which type of living situation would best suit your needs. Once you decide which independent living arrangement is best, you will need to set up services and supports (if needed). This can be done with the help of a local agency or can be done by contacting various organizations to request supports.
The Foundations for Autism Support and Training offers a database of different housing options.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.