Bold steps are needed to increase housing options for a burgeoning population of adults with autism, researchers say in a report out this week.

Currently, nearly 80 percent of those with autism ages 19 to 30 live with their parents, as few other choices exist outside of institutionalization. Meanwhile, about 500,000 children with the disorder are expected to reach adulthood in the next 15 years.

To meet the growing need, researchers are calling for a national network of nonprofits to collect data on the needs of the adult population with autism in the new report titled Opening Doors: A Discussion of Residential Options for Adults Living with Autism and Related Disorders.

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Further, the report recommends that a searchable web site be established to provide information on existing facilities. And once better demographic information is available, new housing models can be tested, the report indicates.

In the meantime, researchers recommend that people work within their communities to lobby for funding sources and partner with real estate developers to find affordable, creative options for today’s adults.

“The dramatic increase in the population of affected individuals gives rise to serious concern among families, service providers, government and the community at-large that residential services for post-school-age adults with autism and developmental disorders must be created as an integral part of a healthy community’s housing plan and opportunities,” said Denise Resnik, co-founder of the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, which released the housing report along with the Urban Land Institute Arizona and researchers at the Arizona State University.

In looking at existing residential options across the country, the researchers found a variety of offerings ranging from short-term transitional programs to supported living, group homes and more institutionalized care. Not all models exist in all states and when options are available, they’re generally expensive.

Very little data is available, however, on the population of adults with autism, making it difficult to assess the types of residences needed going forward and at what level.

Yet an even bigger hurdle may be financial, researchers said. Government funding is cumbersome to obtain for housing projects. What’s more, most adults with autism are unemployed and rely on monthly payments from Supplemental Security Income, which total less than the national average to rent an efficiency.

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