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Developing New Housing Options for Adults with Autism

  • Synopsis: Published: 2010-04-23 - Adults with autism often have unique characteristics that impact their housing needs - Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.

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Pennsylvania DPW Report: Developing New Housing Options for Adults with Autism Will Foster New Opportunities, Greater Independence.

Pennsylvanians with autism could have broader opportunities to participate in and contribute to their communities if more effort is made to create affordable housing tailored to their needs, a new state report finds.

The report on housing options for adults with autism spectrum disorder, issued today by the Department of Public Welfare's Bureau of Autism Services, offers a first-ever comprehensive look at the housing challenges facing Pennsylvanians with autism.

"The dramatic increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism in recent years will, of course, translate into larger numbers of adults with autism in the future," Public Welfare Secretary Harriet Dichter said. "It is important that we lay the groundwork now to provide affordable and appropriate housing choices for those adults living with autism."

A landmark autism census released last year by DPW found there are more than 3,800 adults with autism living in Pennsylvania and that figure is expected to exceed 10,000 by 2014.

The report notes adults with autism often have unique characteristics that impact their housing needs, including:

Difficulty with social interaction that can create anxiety or frustration;

Speech limitations that can make it difficult to express themselves and difficult for others to understand their ideas and feelings;

Sensory sensitivity that can lead to an aversion to noise or light;

A lack of public understanding of their behavior that can lead to conflict.

Just as there are a wide range of intellectual abilities across the autism spectrum, there also must be a variety of housing options to meet those needs, the report concludes.

Some adults with autism, for example, might require housing that limits light or noise to accommodate sensory sensitivity. Some might need relatively secluded housing to address socialization issues, while others may need shared housing to accommodate live-in aides or require ready access to public transportation or medical facilities.

The report recommends several ways to broaden housing opportunities for Pennsylvanians with autism, including pilot projects to create model housing.

"The needs and skills among adults with autism are varied and prone to change over time, and the housing options we create must do the same," Dichter said.

Additionally, the report found more could be done to educate adults with autism and their families about housing options and supports. It recommends using the regional Autism Services, Education, Research, and Training Collaboratives as clearinghouses for information and help in finding affordable, suitable housing.

For more information on the autism housing report, visit the Department of Public Welfare's website at

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