Finding a place to live is no easy feat, no matter who you are. Autism can add to that difficulty. Here are some housing options for autistic adults and parents of autistic teens to consider.
Where do autistic people live?
A common question I see on online forums is how and where autistic adults live — sometimes asked by the parents, other times by autistic people themselves.
About ten years ago, some corners of the autistic community wished there was an autistic village where we could live together, complementing each other’s disabilities with our own abilities, and working together to make and sell things for profit. (Like the Amish, but for autism.)
With parents or relatives
Many autistic adults live with their parents or extended relatives. Some have jobs, some run their own business, and some don’t work at all.
Usually, this is because their parents are supportive and don’t subscribe to the Western culture of pushing kids out of the house at the age of 18 years old. Sometimes, it’s because the parents have gained guardianship over their adult autistic children.
Other autistic adults who live with extended relatives may help out around the house, pay rent, or have a dynamic that isn’t transactional — sometimes because the household itself is neurodivergent.
Neurodivergent culture values community and the metaphorical “village” where people don’t go at things alone. Thus, the Western parenting culture of kids being an “18-year job”, instead of a lifelong commitment, rarely exists.
In a tiny house in the backyard
Late 2022, I began seeing on social media that some autistic adults live in tiny homes on their relatives’ property. Many of these autistic adults started out on their own, but ultimately struggled to keep up with neurotypical society.
As a compromise, their loved ones invited them to live in a tiny house in the backyard or on their land. This way, the autistic adults retain independence but have help if they need it.
This option is wonderful for autistic adults who struggle to live independently (even with a roommate), or don’t have access to transportation. A lot of autistic people find public transportation difficult and do need their own vehicle. So even if an autistic adult could go places via bus, they could also get lost or find themselves in dangerous situations.
With a roommate
Autistic adults might partner up with other neurodivergent people to lighten the load of “adulting” and have more money to save. They might also choose to live with neurotypical roommates.
Since this requires a shared living space with other people in close proximity, a roommate situation is best for quiet autistics — unless there are nosier autistics or people in the home. Further, a sensory-seeker might struggle to live with a sensory-avoider because they’d set each other off. The same is true with a loud autistic and an autistic sensitive to noise.
Not all autistic people can handle being a roommate, especially if they struggle in other areas of life. Access to decent transportation, grocery stores, and an income are all required to maintain their room.
Additionally, roomies may be required to help deep clean the home, and low-energy/high-masking autistic individuals may prefer to pitch in for professional housekeepers.
In their own home
Autistic adults who manage to care for themselves with little help may be able to live on their own, both short-term and long-term. Access to decent transportation, either by procuring a vehicle or living near a bus stop, and having a means of income to manage their financial needs, will be required.
High-masking autistic adults may struggle to maintain living independently if they fall into autistic burnout. Losing their home as the result of autistic burnout or struggling to continue masking is one of the most traumatizing and stigmatizing things someone can experience, so think carefully before choosing this option.
So even if your autistic teenager or adult demonstrates their ability to live independently for a year, they may struggle to maintain that independence. Furthermore, moving back in with family may increase their regression, as adults tend to regress around the people who raised them — like around the holidays!
In a residential program for disabled people
Autistic people who struggle to thrive independently and have no home support might find themselves having to live in residential programs specifically created for disabled adults.
Guardians who put autistic adults into these programs tend to do it for the following reasons:
- They don’t have the time, energy, or resources to care for their children who become adults.
- They want to surround their autistic loved one with people who behave similarly.
- They can’t provide their child with the resources needed to thrive, or they are preparing for their own end of life care.
Some residential programs exist to graduate the disabled adults out of the program and have connections with local employers to help their residents gain employment.