Wednesday, July 27, 2016
NHS Participates in Autism Society National Conference
Executive Vice President Karen Markle and Senior Director of Autism Services Christiana Show presented at the 47th Annual Autism Society National Conference in New Orleans on July 15. Karen and Christiana’s presentation, called Building Blocks for the Future: An Integrated Housing System for Individuals with Autism, focused on planning and development of integrated housing, and providing support for independent living and employment success for individuals with an autism spectrum diagnosis. Today, communities are faced with the challenges of supporting individuals and their families impacted by an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and how to plan for their future. The NHS team presented some startling facts to the crowded room, including current statistics reporting that 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys) are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. With no known cause or cure, supporting these unique individuals has created a crisis in response and resources for our families, schools and communities. The cost of providing care for a person with autism is $1.4 to $2.4 million over their life span, individuals on the spectrum are seven times more likely to come in contact with the law, and less than 17 percent of these individuals are gainfully employed. Most families and communities do not have dedicated resources to support these individuals throughout their life.
A great deal of focus has been on children and adolescents under the age of 21 who have an ASD, but what happens to individuals over the age of 21? Schools are no longer responsible for support and education, and families run out of resources due to the transition to adulthood and having their previous supports disappear overnight. There are individuals with ASD that possess the capability of living independently and having gainful employment, but due to the lack of minimal support, they remain in the care of others, and they often are unemployed or underemployed. Developing new ideas is key to helping individuals with ASD maximize their potential and provide the opportunity to become active, independent members of their local community. Karen and Christiana presented an innovative concept that integrates housing for individuals with an ASD and their typical developing peers. In partnership with the Autism Housing Development Corporation of Pittsburgh (AHDCP) and with ACTION Housing, Inc. in Allegheny County, NHS is developing the Heidelberg Apartments Project. Providing voluntary support for all tenants to access community resources, peer engagement, resume writing, employment assistance, budgeting and identification of natural supports is a necessity for success of the project. There will also be a tenant council to facilitate the development of an environment where all residents can socialize in a safe and supportive environment. The key to impactful, long-term success is integration of home and community resources.