Network of International Farm Communities for Autism

This web site highlights international efforts to provide farmstead communities which meet the residential, vocational and recreational needs of the growing population of adults with autism.

It chronicles progress that has been made since the creation of Somerset Court in England, in 1974. You can scan the charts that provide contact information, and those that present comparative data. You can connect to individual site descriptions or hyperlink to web sites of specific communities to see how this model has evolved. Many programs have fared well and continue to grow and expand; some have just begun to emerge. Sadly a few have never been able to start, even after years of planning, while one significant program has closed. New efforts are in various stages of development in several countries.

These pages, with information gathered from programs new and old, clarify those issues that determine success and those that present significant challenges. Shared understanding and cooperative exploration avoid some of the pitfalls of setting up and running such communities. Hopefully, collected knowledge and mutual problem solving will benefit new programs as they evolve.

 

BACKGROUND

Farmstead communities for adults with autism have been evolving in Europe and the United States since the early 1970's. Most were created through devoted and energetic leadership of parents and a "special " teacher. Most still flourish, with plans to expand residential and work options beyond the original site. The farmstead model is not a utopian vision. It blends a unique set of opportunities for living, working and socializing in rural settings with access to activities in neighboring towns and cities. Farm activities include meaningful tasks that require cooperation and interdependence. Skills can be taught and communication enhanced as staff and residents work and play side-by-side.

 

FARMSTEAD MODEL CHARACTERISTICS

As described in the book European Farm Communities for Autism (Giddan & Giddan, 1993, Medical College of Ohio Press), Characteristics of these farmsteads include the following:

  • Rural settings
  • Natural contexts for residential, vocational and recreational experiences
  • Interdependence between residents and staff
  • Structure, order and behavioral principles applied
  • Focus on communication
  • On-going staff training
  • Involvement with the larger community beyond the site
  • Continued family support

SIMILARITIES AMONG COMMUNITIES:

  • Rural settings
  • Origins with regard to timing and needs
  • Parental involvement
  • "Special" teacher
  • Government funding
  • Range of abilities among the residents selected

CONTRASTING FEATURES:

  • Size of the community
  • Staff training methods and procedures
  • Styles of individualized programming for residents
  • Expectations for the residents
  • Type and extent of record keeping

CRITICAL ISSUES:

  • Leadership transitions
  • Long-term financial security
  • Public relations
  • Staff retention
  • Behavior management
  • Satellite settings
  • Program expansion

Resources

Web Sites:

Autism Europe:
http://www.autismeurope.arc.be/

The Autism Research Unit, University of Sunderland. Sunderland, United Kingdom:
http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/autism/

Autism Resources:
http://www.autism-resources.com

Autism Society of America:
http://www.autism-society.org

National Alliance for Autism Research:
http://www.naar.org

National Association of Residential Providers for Adults with Autism
http://www.narpaa.org

Network of International Farm Communities for Autism list serv
http://mailman.meduohio.edu/mailman/listinfo/nifca

World Autism Organization (WAO):
http://worldautism.org

Autism Forum of Northwest Ohio list serv and discussion forum
http://mailman.meduohio.edu/mailman/listinfo/autism

Articles:

Adults with Autism: Habilitation Challenges and Practices

Jane J. Giddan (Medical College of Ohio) & Victoria L. Obee (Bittersweet Farms)
Journal of Rehabilitation Jan/Feb/Mar 1996 pp. 72-76

Bremen Project Meyerwiede Farm

Hermann Cordes
Chapter in Föderung Autistischer Kinder. Bremer Projet. 2000.
Translated by Burley Channer

Our children are Becoming Adults - The Idea of Farms for Autistic Persons

Alina Perzanowska
Autistic Child 1997, v. 23-30
Translated by Stefania Frank

AutismNet.net