The Short of It
Parents in east Tennessee are working to create an Utopia for autistic adults who have aged out of the school system.
Developed by Autism Breakthrough of Knoxville, the South Knoxville neighborhood is a safe and economical housing option for residents with autism to live independently from their parents. The organization provides a full range of services for its residents, including community living, recreation, and employment.
"People think of autism more with little children," Breakthrough's Executive Director Beth Ritchie told WBIR News. "But little children grow up, and autism does not go away."
Breakthrough was started 17 years ago by parents as a way to provide for their children's futures. "We sat down and kind of dreamed what would be Utopia for our kids, and Breakthrough was born," says Ritchie. "Is it Utopia? No, not yet, [but] we're trying to get there."
The non-profit provides many services, including in-home supports, personal assistance, and job skill development, but the development of the South Knoxville neighborhood definitely is its largest undertaking. It consists of seven homes plus an additional six homes in and around the Knoxville metro area, where staff transport and provide 24-hour support for residents to the degree they require assistance.
With the dramatic rise of autism in the United States, it's important for us to start preparing young adults who are aging out of the school system for life in the real world. Neighborhoods like this one, where residents can feel safe, are a great start.
Lance Fisher has autism and currently lives in the South Knoxville neighborhood. "The reason why I moved here," he said, "is because it's a much better place to stay with roommates and a house manager and all that good stuff."