The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced new data indicating that the rate of autism among 8 year-old children in 2018 (the 2010 birth cohort) is now 2.3% (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/ss/ss7011a1.htm). What are the implications of this statistic for future housing demand in Massachusetts for adults with autism? An estimated annual 625 to 650 units of supported housing beyond what is funded through the Department of Developmental Services and MassHealth may be needed.
Autism Housing Pathways looked at data for 8 year-old students with autism reported by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and compared them to overall student numbers to see how well the data reported by the CDC carry over into Massachusetts. The 2018 Child Count Data show 9,183 students with autism ages 6-11 (https://www2.ed.gov/programs/osepidea/618-data/state-level-data-files/part-b-data/child-count-and-educational-environments/bchildcountandedenvironments2018-19.csv). Dividing this number by six to approximate the number of 8 year-olds, gives us 1,531. Total state enrollment of third graders in 2018-2019 was 68,641 (https://www.doe.mass.edu/InfoServices/reports/enroll/2019/district-grade.xlsx ). Multiplying this by the CDC’s 2.3% incidence rate gives us 1,579 students, only 48 more than the number estimated from the Child Count Data. This indicates that the figure from the CDC is indeed applicable to Massachusetts.
Autism is a life-long disability, which these children will carry into adulthood. Where will they live? The CDC indicates 35% of those in their study have an intellectual disability; this is similar to the 37% in Autism Housing Pathways’ 2012 Massachusetts housing survey (https://autismhousingpathways.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/AHP_Survey_results.pdf). While the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Disabilities will insure those with an intellectual disability have housing in some form, what of the remainder? The 2012 AHP survey indicated about 3% are completely independent in their Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (this 3% is comparable with the 4% of young adults with ASD who were living independently in a 2008 study cited in the 2009 Opening Doors report — https://www.autismcenter.org/sites/default/files/files/openingdoors_print_042610_001.pdf). The AHP survey indicated another 19% met criteria for Adult Foster Care through MassHealth. Taken altogether, these figures indicate that the remaining 41% of adults with autism in Massachusetts need some level of supported housing but will not receive housing through either DDS or the AFC program.
Applying this analysis to the estimated 1,531 third graders in Massachusetts and the number of 1,579 calculated from the CDC rate, the implication is that between 628 and 647 units of housing above what is provided via DDS and AFC will be needed for this single year cohort when they reach adulthood.
President, Autism Housing Pathways