Parents of children on the autism spectrum face significant challenges in getting the right education, support and other life tools for their kids. But the difficulties don’t go away when these kids grow up. Can they live alone, support themselves, be a part of society? And what happens when their adult caregivers age out of watching over them?
Mary Douglass is one of many working to combat these challenges. Douglass is the president of Lansing Intentional Communities, or LINCS. The organization’s goal is to promote the creation of spaces, called intentional communities, where adults with developmental disabilities live together.
“We’re putting these individuals in close proximity with each other so we can help them create community together and support them as they create community with their surrounding neighborhood,” Douglass said. "Really the individual is making their own self-determined choices about where they live, who they live with, how they get supported, what the neighborhood looks like."
Douglass says there's no one model or format the communities must follow. LINCS recently bought its first house for three people, but several apartments, for example, could work just as well.
"It doesn’t matter how we acquire that housing. What really matters is that we’re being intentional about keeping ourselves close together and creating community with each other.”
LINCS then inserts what it calls a community builder, Douglass said, to live within the community. They might plan outings, or just help out when needed.
“I like to think of it as an RA, like when you go to college,” Douglass said.
The intentional community model is different from a group home. It purposefully has less of a rigid schedule to give as much independent choice as possible to individuals. This is a fluid model that can change and improve with different circumstances, Douglass said, but it’s a distinct improvement from the past.
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