Many parents have their child with autism live at home after reaching adulthood. However, this is not always the best choice for an adult child or for the parents. There are other available options and there is no single, best solution for a given child. It isn't just the child's abilities that determine what is best for the family. It is also the family's needs, lifestyle, available emotional and physical resources, and finances.
Remaining at Home
This is one of the most frequently discussed topics in support groups across the country. Someone will usually, and tentatively, ask the question, “What do I do when my child is grown?” The most important consideration in deciding where your child will live as an adult should be whether the environment is productive and interesting. Whether your child lives at home with you, lives in a group home, or needs to be institutionalized, the life he leads must be actively in touch with the world around him. As a child turns into a young adult, and then from a young adult into a mature adult, his happiness and satisfaction will hinge on his environment.
One of the most distinctive aspects of autism, the tendency for introversion, makes it imperative that an adult with autism has an environment full of variety and interest. It is too easy for many people with autism to withdraw into their own world and if that is allowed to continue, they can retreat further and further from those around them. Couple that with the lack of conceptual understanding, and it is easy to see how someone with autism becomes a couch potato, staring at a television for hours on end.
If you wish to keep your adult child at home with you, be sure you have the physical and mental capacity to keep him busy. He will need to participate in various activities, have a schedule that keeps him interested, and stick to the schedule as much as possible. He will also need to be physically active. You will need to either keep up with that schedule yourself or have someone in the home who can. You will also need to plan ahead to make arrangements for someone to care for your child when age and health make it impossible for you to do so.
Group homes and assisted living are the options most parents choose for their children on the autism spectrum. Group homes generally have four to six residents. Two staff members are on the schedule at all times except during sleeping hours, when one is sufficient, and other personnel for special therapies come in and out. These homes are usually single-family residences in neighborhoods around the country. Group homes are very popular for several reasons:
People with autism see others without disabilities and thus have role models outside their immediate family members.
People in the community are exposed to autism and learn they are people like anyone else.
Group homes with several people give everyone a chance to continue a degree of socialization.
Therapies and education are provided to the residents in group homes and life skills are taught by staff members or other qualified people.
Activities are planned regularly such as swimming, bowling, and field trips that everyone enjoys.
Group homes may be permanent but they can also teach a young adult with autism the skills necessary to live independently or return home to live with parents and other family members.
Assisted living is for people with high-functioning autism who need less supervision than those in a group home. Two people may share living arrangements and have a social services worker visit daily to be sure that their needs are being met. Each of these situations would vary depending on the people involved and their abilities.
When you think of institutions, you may think of the horror stories that you've heard rumors about or seen in films. It is true that in the past, institutions were the last stop for people with mental disabilities. It is also true that abuse and neglect were common problems for the people unfortunate enough to find themselves placed in an institution. Much of the problem came from a lack of understanding of the various disabilities and illnesses that affected people. The social isolation of an institution only added to the situation, as no one in a community really knew what was going on behind those closed doors.
Institutions in the modern era differ vastly from the creaky, ancient fortresses that were once common. Many are modern and have a homelike setting. They are clean without looking like a hospital and are geared toward meeting the needs of the residents.
They tend to be staffed by professionals who enjoy working with the mentally challenged. Yes, some of these facilities do exist.
Whether a parent chooses an institution, group or assisted-living, or keeps an adult child with autism at home, is a very individual choice. Don't let family, friends, or society make you feel badly about your decision. Many factors enter into the living situation of an adult child. You might seek professional advice from a counselor to consider various issues.
An institution may be appropriate for a person with autism who has behavioral disorders that can be a source of danger to him or others. Group homes or assisted-living facilities do not have the close supervision that may be necessary for such a person. Patients who have other physical complications requiring a great deal of therapy or medications may also be best suited for an institution.