Studies have found that 79% of young adults with autism continue to live at home with their parents, and a majority of them have never looked for a job. But the truth is that they can’t stay at home forever, and therefore researchers, parents and architects have recently started searching for solutions.
Sweetwater Spectrum is one of these solutions. 16 adults who all range on the autism spectrum reside here, in Sonoma, California. This $10.4 million project opened in January and it is hoped that it will set an example, so other residences such as this can be built across the country.
This dream seems to be coming true, as new and prospective housing projects in Cape Cod, the Catskills, Phoenix and Minnesota are currently being created. One in Ramsey, N.J. called Airmount Woods, a new eight-unit residence developed using the latest concepts in building for autism, will be ready for tenants this coming November.
Sweetwater desires to inspire a “life with purpose”. The idea is that this community should accommodate people from various financial backgrounds. A big advantage is that residents can stay in this place that has so many resources for them—a library, an organic farm, a pool—while their personal attendants come to them.
Sweetwater is a place specifically designed for supportive living, with high-impact wall finishes, replaceable carpet tiles, floor drains in every bathroom, and induction cooktops in the kitchen.
The house is set up with autistic residents in mind—from the multiple seating options that depend on the individual resident’s comfort level of being involved with conversation and activities, to bedrooms that are spaced far apart in order to limit noise annoyance.
It is still a work and progress.
Sweetwater has many goals they hope to meet, and ideas they will experiment with for the benefit of the whole autism community. The question they are trying to answer is: how can daily experience for this population as a whole be improved?
Sweetwater is an open campus with parents coming and going, and many residents and their families feel as though it is like “an extended family”. They are happy that their kids can find a welcoming space for them and interact with people who understand them.
David Schoenbach who has a 23 year old daughter residing at Sweetwater explains how his daughter has found much more comfort living there, and interacting with her housemates. “They’re definitely her tribe,” he said. “And she recognizes it and is delighted to be around other people with autism.”
For more information on “Airmount woods” in Bergen County, New Jersey go to: http://www.bergenunitedway.org/airmountbuild.php