In Society

How Housing Can Be Tailored to the Autistic Community

Autism_Awareness.jpg

Medical professionals, especially osteopathic physicians, are trained to look at patients holistically. But are clinicians truly assessing an individual’s needs and their goals?

We should challenge the textbook notion that autistic patients require supervision. An apartment complex in Pittsburgh, PA is set to open doors to those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The project emerged from a shared vision of facilitating independent life for people with autism through affordability and special architectural design. Sweetwater Spectrum, a development of shared homes in California, had a similar idea and was built with acute attention to accommodation, which includes on-site support staff:

It has a community center, farm, greenhouse and pool. The homes have noise-dampening ceilings and quiet heating and air conditioning systems for residents who are hypersensitive to loud sounds.

These apartments parallel the backdrop of a rise in autism rates. According to the CDC, we are at a historic high for the number of people diagnosed with ASD.

Here’s the part that gets – unfortunately – tangled up in a mess called politics. Medicaid is currently the main payer for ASD management, but the Trump administration plans on transitioning Medicaid to a block-based grant system, and then to halt Medicaid expansion altogether. This means that despite the prevalence of autism, we may see a decline in funding for its treatment/management.

Should Medicaid’s possible fadeout worry you, the future health practitioner, and your ASD patients or others who rely on Medicaid? To this, I would say, “Hey, I know of this FANTASTIC blogcast called Diagnostocracy, which will cover the turbulence and impact of the public insurance system in the future, so stay tuned…because it’s a great site.”

Our focus should shift focus to being better at “medicine outside of medicine.” As a society, we have tunnel vision for the next breakthrough in technology or easy pharmaceutical quick-fix, but we should lend ourselves to simple yet effective out-of-the-box thinking (like building a heart pump with supplies from Home Depot). Prescribing personalized housing to facilitate an autistic patient’s well-being goes beyond the clinic room.

With that being said, let us continue to reassess our definition of patients’ needs and goals and what practicing medicine really means.

Image: AOA

(Just wanted to give a quick thanks to Keifer W., Leigh G., and Roy L. for editing this post!)

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