Archive for the ‘supervised care’ Category
Yes, I’m back again after another hiatus, but I see some of you are still reading my site.
I’ll be exploring some articles I had stored up to discuss, including a lengthy article by John Richardson of the Kennebec Journal in Maine. The story is among a growing number of journalistic investigations reporting the response to the increasing autistic population. Maine is not immune to the effects, with 680 adults with autism or other disabilities waiting to get MaineCare funding for some level of services, a figure reaching $282 million this year. That’s a few zeros, but even with 180 on that list considered in critical need for health or safety concerns, the state can only move seven to 10 people per month when funding frees up, usually when older adults die. Even just four years ago, a high school student with autism could smoothly transition to adult services if the condition warranted such care. Now, residents in Maine and other states find themselves on waiting lists that can last for years. Complicating things is the lack of affordability for services, with day programs costing $20 to $25 per hour and full-time residential care running at least a $70,000 price tag.
Richardson’s story isn’t new, as the high cost of services is a repeated point of discussion in autism articles (recently explored in the Denver Post with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s granddaughter). Given the current economic and political climate, foreseeing a growth of these stories published can only be expected. Autism’s strain on families is another element making a return appearance in Richardson’s story, citing a 2010 story where a father and full-time caretaker of his autistic son killed both his son and himself. Naturally, we also see statistical evidence that autism is rising in Maine, with Richardson using data from the state’s public schools. Granted, those in Maine who spend most of their news consumption within state boundaries may not be aware of similar articles in the news timeline, but that doesn’t change the increasing occurrence of reports detailing how the public may potentially deal with autistic adults unable to function independently.
The story isn’t part of an elaborate scheme to rehash the same material in order to demand more autism funding from various sources. Instead, stories with parallel themes are usually the result of considering the outlet’s audience. A similar story in the West Coast may not have the same impact because of geographical distance. There’s also a chance reporters themselves are still developing fluency; autism carries a complex nature, but its penetration may not be high enough for its own beat coverage that reporters give to topics such as politics, crime, education and sports.
Richardson is effective at spelling out the issue for readers of Kennebec Journal, balancing the recurring elements of concerned parents, data, and challenges as a result of said data. However, autism news readers likely understand by now that autism doesn’t suppress itself upon graduation. The community may ask for something deeper than localizing a previously reported story, but with the varying severity of autism combined with the uncertainty of progress offered by treatments, the adaptation of autistic adults could be one story where reporters won’t have an easy time digging further in the present.
North Carolina’s no stranger for people to place themselves in the minds of autistics. As the adult population grows, so will the need for homes to accommodate 24-hour support and supervision for autistic adults whose behavioral challenges prohibit them from living on their own. WNC Group Homes, who owns five facilities in Asheville, have been testing their new Kenmore Street location since January, which replaced a Montford home that WNC described wasn’t built for their needs.
WNC teamed up with Tyner Construction, Co. and architect Andrew Willet to design a hybrid that could withstand pressure but not give off a sterile, cold feeling. The walls were created with high-impact drywall, a material often used in hospitals and detention facilities, but can also hold up against sudden emotional outbursts from its residents who may be unable to express their emotions in a more subtle way. The counters were constructed with extra-durable granite, and the trim is stained wood, which doesn’t chip as easily as standard painted moldings.
Not that visitors would notice right away. The walls are painted beige and the home is an open-floor plan, filled with light and lined nearly floor to ceiling with windows. Even the residents live out the home’s hybrid model, who all participate in sports and arts programming and hold jobs with various employers.
Casey Blake, who wrote the story, may have been inspired by Autism Awareness Month as the article’s web page includes a notice about WNC Group Homes and a link to the Autism Society of North Carolina’s website. Had this story been published in another time, the timing would have been more questionable since the story occurred long after the group home opened (stories on new facilities are generally released near or soon after their opening date). Still, Blake’s profile of the facility may highlight the future of caring for autistic adults as the public wonders what their future holds once their youth services end.
Blake offers one possibility by sticking with a hybrid theme for both the home and its residents. As with any other group home, the design incorporates the challenges of its residents, which are sensory sensitivity, accessibility and emotional outbursts in this case. While the aesthetic incorporation was the core of the story, she could have stopped reporting about the residents after explaining how the home could adapt to them. Instead, she continues her interview to reveal how the Kenmore residents are contributing to society, even if the rest of the public would take those contributions for granted.
Caretakers who clients include autistic people stand to gain the most from Blake’s story, by either following the WNC Group Home model for their Kenmore location (reaction has been overwhelmingly positive) or contacting their local reporters to highlight a similar hybrid home. Autism coverage of old often painted grim pictures of autistic adults whose symptoms were too severe to completely integrate with the mainstream. Blake doesn’t play “happy-go-lucky” with her story, but she does communicate that even the most severely impaired individuals who require special needs can enjoy some of the comforts their unimpaired peers almost expect.