Yesterday, at the official Autism Speaks blog, there was a post about agricultural communities for autistic adults. These, in the Netherlands also known as “care farms”, provide housing and employment for adults with autism in a supported environment. They range in size from seven to thirty beds according to the article, so none are institution size. That doesn’t mean no institutional power dynamics though, so that is a possible problem: size is not what makes an institution bad.
The new organization, Agricultural Communities for Adults with Autism, aims to collaborate to form two hundred of such communities around the United States. The reason is that the current communities have huge waiting lists. The same goes for care farms and especially workhomes in the Netherlands, which is what this initiative reminded me of.
A workhome is a sheltered living and working environment for autistic adults. Unlike these agricultural communities and most care farms, most workhomes are part of mental institutions. However, as they operate independently, the problem of congregation is largely solved. Unlike at a care farm, workhomes offer more varied work opportunities, such as housekeeping, arts, industrial work, etc. At least one is a farm, which provides both agricultural and other work. Like the agricultural communities mentioned in the post, most provide day programs to adults living in the nearby community. Some, like the farm workhome, are part of a community, while others are located more segregatedly, but in the Netherlands, nothing can be on the edges of civilization due to our population density.