HOUSING + HOMELESSNESS

Neuro-inclusive housing: helping autistic adults find their independence

Feb 16, 2024, 7:11 PM | Updated: 7:28 pm

Neuro-inclusive housing...

Fish Vosnos, who has autism and is pursuing a degree in autism studies, talks with his classmates during an English 1005, rhetorics and literacies across communities, class at Utah Valley University in Orem on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. Over 50,000 people with autism enter adulthood every year. What resources when it comes to neuro-inclusive housing, does Utah offer to them? (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY– In the U.S., over 50,000 people with autism enter adulthood every year, according to Cross River Therapy. What resources, particularly when it comes to neuro-inclusive housing, does Utah offer to adults diagnosed with autism?

Director of the Autism After 21 Utah Project Dr. Sumiko Martinez tells KSL NewsRadio over 32,000 people with autism and other intellectual developmental disabilities in Utah live with caregivers over the age of 60.

“So, we have a situation where caregivers are aging,” Martinez said. “What is going to happen when their caregiver is no longer able to care for people or if they suddenly pass away?”

Martinez continued, saying that nationally, there is not enough supportive housing for people with autism and other intellectual developmental disabilities. On top of this, waitlists for the available supportive housing are years long.

“At the family level, we can prepare for this by doing person-centered planning to ensure that (an) individual’s housing needs will be met even after their caregivers pass away,” Martinez said. “Then also, at a societal level, we need to make sure that the infrastructures in place to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout their entire lives.”

What is neuro-inclusive housing?

According to Martinez, neuro-inclusive housing is a relatively new concept. She described it as “residential opportunities that are created to be financially physically and cognitively accessible.”

“Those three elements are really important,” she said. “A lot of folks who have autism and other IDDs ( intellectual or developmental disabilities) are often economically disenfranchised.”

Martinez said some of these individuals are unable to work or face employment discrimination. These factors make financial accessibility very important to neuro-inclusive housing. Additionally, physical accessibility and cognitive accessibility are important.

Cognitive accessibility is a newer idea, according to Martinez. It involves three main things:

  1. The actual built environment, meaning the structure and design of the home.
  2. Long-term support services through the Department of Services for People With Disabilities.
  3. Supportive amenities, like community navigators and organized group events that encourage inclusion and community engagement.

Data on neuro-inclusive housing in Utah

Martinez helped publish a neuro-inclusive housing report for the state of Utah. That report includes data on multiple things from how many people with IDDs are living in Utah to what percentage of those people rely on caregivers.

“The thing I want people to know the most about is how do we how do we address this problem,” Martinez said. “Please read the report. Learn about the hard data behind it. People have … their needs and preferences expressed here and now it’s up to us to take this ball and run with it. And, make sure that we are taking care of everyone in our society.”

Read the report and learn more by clicking here.

Related: Gold Cross equips first responders with autism-friendly kits

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Neuro-inclusive housing: helping autistic adults find their independence