Here is a truth about children with autism: they grow up to become adults with autism. Advocates estimate that over the next decade some 500,000 such individuals will come of age in the United States.
No one can say for sure what adulthood will hold for them. To start, where will everyone live and work? A 2008 Easter Seals study found that 79 percent of young adults with autism spectrum disorders continue to reside with their parents. A solid majority of them have never looked for a job.
And yet the life expectancy of people with autism is more or less average. Here is another truth, then, about children with autism: they can’t stay at home forever.
This realization — as obvious as it is worrying — has recently stirred the beginnings of a response from researchers, architects and, not least, parents. In 2009, a pair of academics, Kim Steele and Sherry Ahrentzen, collaborated on “Advancing Full Spectrum Housing,” a comprehensive design guideline for housing adults with autism. (An expanded book on the topic is scheduled to come out next year.)