The founding membership of Autism Living and Working (ALAW) is drawn from Greater Philadelphia area people with autism ranging in age from early twenties to fifties, and their families. For twenty-five years this group of families has been advocating for better understanding of the challenges of autism, and for school programs and public policies beneficial to their children’s lives. They formed ALAW, which became a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation in 1995, and received federal tax-exempt recognition in 1997.
ALAW was formed to address the needs of adults with autism, including the need to have households apart from their parents, and to have adequate supports to live and work in the community and avoid institutionalization.
Even before the formalization of ALAW, the core group of members was instrumental in getting Autism/PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorders) added into the definition of “disabilities” included in Pennsylvania’s Regulations and Standards for Special Education in 1990.
In 1997 ALAW undertook a study of the various state and federal regulatory systems and funding streams for adults with disabilities and made a formal presentation of the study to the PA Department of Public Welfare in 1998.
As a result, the Commonwealth agreed to create an Autism Pilot Project that originally served 24 adults from across the autism spectrum and used the OBRA Medicaid waiver to fund the home and community-based services. The OBRA waiver is still being accessed today to fund services for adults with ASD (autism spectrum disorder).
Autism Living And Working, Inc. also serves as property manager for four (4) houses where nine (9) adults with autism reside; two (2) owned by the families who created LLC’s (Limited Liability Corporation), and two (2) that are ALAW owned and purchased with the assistance of grants from PFHA.
ALAW continues to maintain the InfoFinders (an informal registration or census of adults with ASD in PA that we pass along to DPW/BAS [Bureau of Autism Services] and the Dept. of Aging).
Autism Living and Working strongly believes that collaboration with other systems and agencies, despite apparent differences in philosophy or approach is the only way to truly strengthen the services available to and for adults with ASD.
ALAW’s first goal has been to secure the services and supports necessary to sustain the participation of adults with autism in the normal round of adult life—help in carrying out daily household routines, support to get and keep jobs, assistance with continuing education, and connection with community volunteering and social opportunities.
This is being achieved for the participants in the Autism Pilot Program, and offers a model for the development of a statewide autism services system for adults. ALAW is working to establish this service model in state law, and to secure ongoing funding.
ALAW’s second goal has been to enable adults with autism to form households apart from their parents. Autism Pilot Program participants are using both public and private sources of home purchase and rental funding, along with contributing toward their own housing costs. However, it is hard to move from the current disability service pattern where the service provider chooses the living arrangement—including type and location of dwelling, and who and how many other people live there—to housing that is self-determined. ALAW will continue to seek both public and private affordable housing funding for adults with autism. ALAW als offers Supports Coordination for adults with autism/ASD who are utilizing the OBRA waiver.