For most people, the transition into adulthood can be a nerve wrecking experience. This transition into adulthood can be particularly difficult for individuals living with autism. According to WebMD, there is a shortage of programs for adults with autism and this shortage is likely to worsen as the number of children diagnosed with autism move into adulthood.
When Clay Heighten and his wife, Debra Caudy, started looking into programs for their son, Jon, they kept running into dead ends. Jon is on the severe end of the autism spectrum and requires a high level of care. They decided to start a non-profit organization, 29 Acres, aimed towards providing a safe and welcoming environment where individuals with autism can transition into adulthood. The project is located in Denton, Texas.
The community will sit on 29 acres of land and will include a community center, 15 homes, and a ‘transitional’ academy. The transitional academy is designed to help young adults living with autism by providing transitional support into adulthood. “We’re trying to create something that would provide an enriched quality of life, so that people like Jon eventually require less supervision,” Clay Heighten told the Dallas News Station. In addition, the organization will hire full-time and part-time staff members including specialists who are experienced in working with individuals with developmental disabilities including autism.
Local community businesses will be located on the property including Smile Biscotti. Smile Biscotti was founded by an individual with autism. Jon Heighten has been apart of the Smile Biscotti project for a while, packaging the baked goods at his home. The organization will also partner with local academic institutions to hire recent graduate students to work at the community and to engage with the residents.
No one individual living with autism is the same and each person is unique in their own way. The organization will evaluate the residents level of need to better identify the support these individuals will require. With the shortage of programs for adults with autism, the non-profit organization will provide a safe community where individuals with autism can feel at home.
Home is where the heart is!