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Left With Few Options, Mom Creates Lifeline For Autistic Adults & Families

April 19, 2016Posted by Linda Hernandez

Affordable housing is an ominous hot button topic in many cities across America.

Imagine how much more of a struggle it is for families of autistic children who must struggle to find a place for their loved ones who will “age out” of their state support system.

Linda Cox, mother to 16-year-old Brett, has long been worrying about what will happen when he becomes too old for his Project Mountain farming and living facility in New Hampshire, about an hour away from where Linda lives in Westford, Massachusetts.

Many parents, like Cox, aren’t equipped for the years of planning that it takes to find housing ahead of the age cutoff, and instead are faced with limited options.

“It’s overwhelming to think about the future when you’re just in the trenches trying to cope with every day, every moment,” says Cox. “There’s so much work to do.”

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Fortunately, Cox and other parents have one resource to rely on: Autism Housing Pathways (AHP) a nonprofit that provides an umbrella of resources for Massachusetts families struggling to find housing for their adult children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

The organization was founded by Catherine Boyle, who created the family-driven, membership-based organization in 2010 after doing extensive research for her own son, Terry, now in his mid-20’s. Boyle discovered that most state entitlements end for those with autism at age 22, leaving families with few options for shelter and care outside the home.

“It’s been very much people trying to figure where they’re going in the dark without a road map,” she said.

Within the next 20 years, more than 10,000 young adults with autism will need affordable housing in Massachusetts, with limited support and eligibility from the state’s Department of Developmental Services.

AHP helps families navigate the process through individual counseling and housing workshops on benefits, funding sources, housing vouchers and options like group homes, shared housing, and adult foster care.

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The staff also takes a “person-centered planning” approach to create a “housing vision” that meets the unique needs of the individual.

Part of the plan includes housing workbooks written at different levels, so that those with developmental disabilities can communicate their wishes for their future home, as well as receive training in personal care and other independent living skills.

For Linda Cox, AHP has been a source of support and hope for families like hers.

“You can’t do this on your own,” she says. “There’s too many fires to put out. We need to know who our supports are helping us move forward into this next chapter, and do it well.”

As for Brett, her biggest hope for him, in addition to a safe place to live, is resilience, which she believes is key to ensuring that her child and so many like him are able to grow and thrive in an often frustrating, frightening world

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