The state plans to establish a group home for autistic men either in Schenectady County or in southern Saratoga County as part of a pilot program to test new treatment options and community integration techniques, officials said.
The state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities is still looking for a site in those areas to purchase, spokeswoman Nicole Weinstein said.
The house would contain four men between the ages of 31 and 43 who have severe autism, Weinstein said. The men are either institutionalized or are living with family members currently.
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects a person’s verbal and social skills.
“Our goal is to move people into their communities,” Weinstein said.
Residents would eventually “graduate” from the program and live in a regular community setting, and the state would continue to monitor them afterward, she said.
The state is opening four group homes as part of the autism pilot program, which involves 22 children, adolescents and adults.
“Autism has been a very important platform we have been working on, and we just had an opportunity to do this program,” Weinstein said.
The first home opened on Long Island, and the state is preparing to open a second home in Binghamton. Neighbors of the proposed group home in Binghamton, which would house children, are fighting its placement, claiming the home would change the character of their community.
The third home would be located on Staten Island.
The OMRDD’s research arm, the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, will evaluate new treatment options, which will include teaching residents how to function independently and successfully in different environments, Weinstein said.
“The scientists at IBR are interested in working on the behavior programs, and there is a lot of interest in it from parents and individuals,” Weinstein said.
Once the pilot program is completed, the state may open additional residential programs elsewhere, Weinstein said.
The OMRDD supports 17,000 people with autism or disabilities within the continuum known as Autism spectrum disorders, providing both residential and day services.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diagnoses of autism and ASD are on the rise across the country. It reports that within some communities, ASD affects one in every 150 children.
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