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Groups address housing concerns for people aging on the spectrum

Autism spectrum disorder, known as ASD, isn’t a new diagnosis. But what is new are the conversations being had about older adults with ASD. Many live at home with aging parents, and there is growing concern about where some of these individuals will live in the coming years. 

One of the biggest challenges facing the autism community is that ASD is often seen as a childhood condition.

"It's a lifelong condition," said Maureen Casey, the director of the Centers for Applied Research and Public Policy at First Place AZ, which provides housing solutions for people with ASD and other neurodiversities, as well as the organization's Global Leadership Institute.

"And individuals with autism grow up," she said. "They grow older. Currently in Arizona, 27% of individuals with autism or other intellectual and developmental disabilities live with a caregiver over the age of 65. So, they're at risk for homelessness."

Last week, First Place hosted its 11th-annual Global Leadership Institute Symposium to try to find ways to address this quiet housing tsunami. 

"They're considered 'housed,' and I use quotation marks around that, because they're living with family members," explained Casey. "But if their family members are growing older, and they [the person with ASD] don't have the financial or service ability to meet those needs, when they're longer there, what happens to those individuals?

It's a question First Place AZ and other stakeholders are trying to answer.

Senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.