Category Archives: Housing

Autistic Poverty, Part 2

Throughout the U.S., at least half of autistic adults reside in a family member’s home—even when they would prefer to live on their own.[1]  Sometimes they just don’t have the skills to live independently, but more often they can’t afford to, because they don’t earn enough.   If they come from a financially stable, functional family this may be frustrating, but it is still the best solution.  Unfortunately, though, some impoverished families become even worse off as their autistic child reaches adulthood.  While most autistic adults living with family members do receive SSI, some households receive SSI benefits for their autistic child, but then lose the benefits after the child became an adult.  So there may actually be less money available to pay for an adult child living in the home than there was for the young child living there.[2]  This creates a very stressful situation, both for the family and for the autistic adult.[3]

An even more troubling issue is that of familial abuse.  Sadly, many autistic adults are trapped by poverty into abusive, even fatal situations at home.[4]  The mother of one Wisconsin 21-year old locked him in the basement with only a bucket for a toilet.[5]  In Louisiana, an autistic woman whose parents were dead was “taken in” by her cousins.  They stole her SSI checks, kept her in a cage, beat her, shot her with a B.B. gun, and forced her to consume her dead mother’s ashes, among other horrendous acts.[6]  Some of this is simple sadism, but the cause of abuse can also be a refusal to accept the reality of autism.  One young woman wrote:

my parents do not want a child like me. They want an outgoing, socially normal, confident child, which I am not, and never have been. However, they pretend to themselves that I am all the things they want me to be, and when I am not they berate and punish me for being lazy, selfish, arrogant, heartless, acting stupid etc. They pretend that the only reason I am not what they want me to be is because I am badly behaved, so they punish me and yell at me when I am myself.[7]

Living with family can be a good solution for some adults, but it also can be a tragic one.

[1] The Autism Housing Network estimates that 87% of autistic adults live with their parents, but only 22% actually want to live with them:  “Statistics to Share,” on the Autism Housing Network website:

[2] Manasi Deshpande, “Does Welfare Inhibit Success?  The Long-Term Effects of Removing Low-Income Youth from the Disability Rolls,” American Economic Review 106:11 (2016), 3300-3330.

[3] One quarter of families with adult autistics living with them had a household income of less than $25,000/year: Anne Roux, et al., National Autism Indicators Report: Family Perspectives on Services and Supports (Philadelphia, PA: Life Course Outcomes Research Program, A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Drexel University, May 2021), p. 27.

[4] In general, the disabled are much more likely to experience violence than those without disabilities, and that violence is more likely to be perpetrated by relatives:  Erika Harrell, “Crime Against Persons with Disabilities, 2009-2015 – Statistical Tables,” U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics Report, July, 2017:

[5] Kristen Zambo, “Racine Woman Accused of Keeping Autistic Son Locked in Basement,” Journal Times (Racine, Wisconsin), July 10, 2013:

[6] Alisha Brown, “Trapped in Hell’: Family Accused of Keeping Autistic Woman in Cage, Making Her Eat Mom’s Ashes,” The Daily Beast July 27, 2018:; Caroline Grueskin, “Alleged ringleaders plead guilty in abuse of autistic woman; was kept in cage, fed mother’s ashes,” The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), May 20, 2019:;  “Louisiana couple sentenced for abusing caged autistic woman,” KALB television, October 31, 2019:

[7] FandomConnection, in the “Emotional Abuse?” discussion on the Wrong Planet website, July 30, 2017: