July 19, 2023, Martha’s Vineyard Times: Island Autism Center to help fill a void https://www.mvtimes.com/2023/07/19/island-autism-center-help-fill-void/
The creation of a new center to help fill a pressing gap in service for Islanders with autism is plowing ahead in West Tisbury.
The Island Autism Center is under development by the Island Autism Group, a nonprofit organization serving autistic individuals and their families on the Island. ...
The project is planned to consist of a hub house, two shared four-bedroom houses for those who need 24/7 care, three two-bedroom cottages, a barn, and a farmstand.
Other than individuals with autism, the campus will also have an apartment for a caretaker/farmer, alongside rooms for guests.
The center will also have space for community events, such as pizza nights or guest speakers.
Currently, the first phase of the project is underway, and could wrap up by early next year.
The full project is still a couple of years away. “In an ideal world, we would get all of the construction done by late 2025,” DeVane said.
According to DeVane, the center would help fill missing links on the Island. She says that children who are at a certain level of disability can remain in the school system until they reach 22.
The final educational program provided by the schools on the Island is called the Voyagers program, which trains young adults with special needs between the ages of 18 and 22 on how to live independently. But after that, there’s a void in services.
“On their 22nd birthday, no matter when it is, what time of the year it is … they are done with the school system, and they become an adult in the eyes of the Department of Developmental Services,” DeVane said. “Everything that was a right under law when they were in school becomes an accommodation that’s … less certain.”
Additionally, the group’s co-founder says that afterschool and summer programming for individuals with autism and other forms of intellectual disabilities is lacking on the Vineyard, compared with metropolitan areas like Boston, where hospitals or other organizations help develop spaces. DeVane said the larger population in cities brings a bigger demand.
DeVane said the center will meet the needs of individuals with autism wherever they are in life, from school-age children to adults.
According to DeVane, there are around 60 school-age children with autism on the Island, and upwards of 200 individuals with autism or autism-related disorders….
While construction is well underway, DeVane says they are still raising money for the center.
They recently acquired a $10,000 grant from the Teamsters Local 25 Autism Fund. The West Chop Community Foundation also provided funding for the farmstand and fencing. But they’re looking for individual donations and pledges.
“We are in a huge fundraising phase,” DeVane said.
Gathering funds for the project met some snags along the way. DeVane said the project began in 2020, and was hit by challenges like the COVID pandemic and the supply chain disruption.
“What was originally going to cost about a million dollars is now costing $3 million to build [phase one],” she said. According to DeVane, adding up everything related to the project would come out to around $10 million in total. …