In what’s being billed as a first-of-its-kind effort, a major university is looking to create housing and employment opportunities for adults on the spectrum.

Rutgers University said it’s hoping to establish a model that could be replicated at academic institutions nationwide through its new Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services.

The university said it will employ as many as 60 adults with developmental disorder at its New Brunswick, N.J. campus.

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New hires with autism could start coming on board by late next year and will be supported by clinical staff and graduate students, officials said. In addition to working on campus, those in the program will participate in life skills training and recreational activities.

Plans are also underway for a pilot program whereby 20 adults with autism will work and live on campus in apartment-style housing alongside graduate students, the university said.

The effort is designed to demonstrate the role that college campuses can play in creating work and housing opportunities for a growing demographic of adults on the spectrum, the university’s president Robert Barchi said.

“Rutgers has tremendous autism expertise and unmatched services that can be employed to create a model unlike anything that currently exists,” Barchi said. “The Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services will become a hub, yielding the most advanced clinical and applied research in support of adults with autism. Ultimately, the findings that grow out of our work will help inform education, intervention and public policy.”

Mary Chrow, an associate dean at Rutgers who has been involved in planning the new center, said the offerings are intended to be individualized. Participants will be placed in on-campus jobs that suit their interests and abilities which could include opportunities in athletics, at the university library or at the campus’ working farm, among other areas, she said, and positions will pay at least minimum wage.

Individuals with autism ages 21 and over will be eligible for the program, which may offer short or long-term opportunities depending on the preferences of participants, Chrow said.

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