Adults with some form of autism spectrum disorder make up a significant portion of the U.S. population. While awareness of the needs of people with autism is quickly spreading, and support for them is more prevalent than ever before, some adults with autism who are aging out of the school system still need the tools necessary to navigate the adult world. Over the course of the next year, 29 Acres will build a living community designed to accommodate adults with autism.
29 Acres first formed last summer as a transition program to teach adults with austism vocational skills.
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“We accepted eight students, high-functioning adults with autism last year,” recalls Debra Caudy, M.D., Co-founder of 29 Acres. “We are taking on another nine students this year. It is a very intentional program and we’re modeling it after another reputable program that has very impressive outcome data associated with it.”
Students of 29 Acres learn all sorts of essential life skills throughout the program, including budgeting, cooking, interacting socially, accessing public transportation and making phone calls in the event of an emergency. The inaugural graduating class will graduate next year, in time for the opening of a new residential community.
“About 80 percent of our adults with autism are not employed, or they are grossly underemployed,” Caudy says. “About 85 percent of these adults with autism don’t live independently. At the end of the two years, they will graduate and they will live in the independent living arrangement of their choice, and then they should be competitively employed. We’ll follow them long term to look at the outcome and to continue to support them in areas where they need it or want it.”
Although some people with autism may require more support than others, Caudy and her team at 29 Acres want to cater to a wide range of autism.
“We decided early on that we wanted to help meet the needs of the full spectrum,” Caudy says. “These people are so incredibly capable of doing so many things. That could be coding, that could be business administration, that could be recycling; just a whole host of employment potential, but they don’t have opportunities because nobody realizes that they’re capable. And when they are given the opportunity, they’re not being fully supported.”
29 Acres’ living community will be comprised of eight houses; some of which will be two-bedroom duplexes and others four-bedroom and four-bathroom houses. There will be a community garden, parks, green spaces and access to transportation.
“A lot of what we’re trying to do is not only support the people with autism, but educate the world about neurodiversity,” Caudy says.
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29 Acres’ living community is projected for completion by summer of 2020. The living community will open in Crossroads, TX.