The Cost of Independence

The need for residential housing options for adults on the spectrum is tremendous―and the price tags can be stunning…

I am the mother of a child on the autism spectrum. I am also the sibling of a brother with Down syndrome. My son on the spectrum is currently 24 years old. As the principle of an architectural firm, I have spent my last decade serving special needs environments through my Purposeful Architecture studio of Purple Cherry Architects. For the past 20+ years, I have been a staunch advocate for programs for my son and for the children of others. I reside in the state of Maryland, and I serve on the National Autism Society Board. I have had the great opportunity to visit many residential programs across the country as well as assist in the design of modular group homes and semi-independent living opportunities for our children. My son is considered high-functioning though he has other diagnoses that  cohabitate with his autism. He lives in a group home in the community, is engaged to his girlfriend, and is employed full-time. He is state-funded for both day supported services and residential placement.

As an architect, I find that I have a strong visual and mathematical mind. I also am very intuitive. I have traveled across the country and visited multiple environments that support our children. I have assisted multiple families in their own pursuit for programs. I have witnessed things done well and things not done well. Our current major flaw in our system aside from the fact that funding does not cross state lines is the transition years between our educational programs served by Department of Education and our adult services served by each state disability agency. What I find to be true about our kids is too often people assume that they are not able to accomplish tasks. This assumption is frequently wrong. What I have observed over my lifetime of 56 years is that any child with challenges has the ability to learn. Helen Keller is an excellent case in point.