An new template for building housing and communities for people with autism was developed in 2009 by Kim Steele and Sherry Ahrentzen who collaborated on “Advancing Full Spectrum Housing,” a comprehensive design guideline for housing adults with autism.
According to the article, "Perhaps the first development to closely follow their template is Sweetwater Spectrum, a residence for 16 adults whose abilities and disabilities span the full range of autism. The innovative $10.4 million project opened in January in the heart of California wine country, and its founding families and board hope to make Sweetwater a model for like-minded experiments across the country."
"…Sweetwater’s mission statement lays out some ambitious principles. Residents will be able to age in place. The community should 'accommodate a broad financial spectrum,' subsidizing residency for a quarter of its tenants. And attendants (who are not Sweetwater employees) should be offered incentives to encourage stable, long-term care relationships."
Here are some of the details about how houses are designed and equipped to accommodate people with autism:
- "'..there is a floor drain in every bathroom. As Ms. Maytum explained, 'Water can be a really interesting activity for people with autism.
- "Safety and security were other concerns. The kitchens use induction cooktops to limit the possibility of burns. And while the perimeter fence is slotted ..., solid planks span the bottom few feet. Residents are free to walk out the front gate, but it’s probably best that they not treat the fence like a ladder.
- "A bigger design challenge was to see a house through the eyes of an autistic client. For example, the layout of all four dwellings is identical: a neighbor’s place should feel like home. And multiple seating options encourage an individual to be near the action without necessarily plunging into the fray.
- "Another way of limiting noise annoyance was to place pairs of bedrooms on opposite sides of the house, instead of in a dormitory-style row…
Another housing project is Airmount Woods in Bergen County, New Jersey. Airmount Woods is "a new eight-unit residence developed by Bergen County’s United Way and operated by the service agency New Horizons in Autism."
"The twin four-bedroom houses will use some of the latest concepts in building for autism. But the real innovation may be the way it promotes special-needs housing as a community asset. That term is not just a stock phrase. Airmount Woods belongs to a nonprofit group called Ramsey Housing Inc., formed by the Borough of Ramsey. The mayor, Christopher Botta, sits on the board, and he dropped by on a recent morning to show off the project. Almost every one of his constituents knows someone with autism, the second-term Republican mayor said. This isn’t housing for strangers."
Here are two innovative housing projects for people with developmental disabilities in Michigan: Benjamin's Hope and Harbor House Ministries.
LTO Ventures, is a non-profit organization with information about housing and planned communities for people with autism around the country.