By Emily Williams
Representatives of Glenwood Autism and Behavioral Center broke ground May 4 on its latest expansion project, three new homes for the organization’s residents that will be built by Capstone Collegiate Communities.
Of the 125 adults and children for whom Glenwood provides residences, 91 live on-campus at the facility adjacent to Liberty Park in Vestavia Hills. With the addition of the Hope Cottages, the organization will be able to accommodate 16 more residents.
“We are fortunate to have the support of Capstone. Their contribution will do much more than provide a home for people with autism; it will fundamentally change the lives of entire families,” Philip Young, Glenwood’s capital campaign co-chair, board member and parent of a child with autism who lives at Glenwood, said in a released statement.
The cottages mark the beginning of “Renowned Care, Renewed Hope: The Campaign for Glenwood,” which consists of a $10 million campaign to expand the organization’s services.
According to Glenwood officials, individuals with severe autism often need a lifetime of care that their parents aren’t trained to provide.
“For many of the residents at Glenwood, they will call Glenwood home for the rest of their life. Their parents don’t have to worry that their child won’t be looked after,” said Glenwood communications manager Bradley Trammell.
Residents who arrive at Glenwood as children suffer severe cases of the disorder, requiring constant supervision along with aid from professionals such as therapists, psychologists, nurses and teachers.
“In the early years, we thought someone else would serve them as they grew older. But when there was nowhere else, we added programs,” Trammell said. “As more children are diagnosed with autism, more adults age out of children’s programs and don’t have anywhere to go.”
Since the organization was founded in 1974, the rate of people diagnosed with autism has increased from 1 in 10,000 people to 1 in 68. With the number of people they serve in the state growing, Glenwood has had to continually expand.
“The children who come to live at Glenwood have the most severe types of autism,” Trammell said. “With limited space and an increasing need for services, we serve the families with the greatest need. But there are many, many more families who need our services than we are able to provide.”
Glenwood residents fall into three populations, each with different programming needs.
Children with autism ages 6 to 21 attend the Allan Cott School on campus. Boys with severe emotional disturbances ages 6 to 14 attend the adjacent Lakeview School. Boys with SED work to stay on grade level, while Allan Cott students focus on basic education and living skills to increase their independence.
Adults with autism are served by the Sullivan Center, which continues to help each resident build independence. Currently, the organization is expanding vocational training for adults, which will give more individuals the opportunity to prepare for and find a job.
“After the school/day program is over, the individuals go back to their homes and spend their afternoons and evenings with supplemental counseling, therapy, enrichment activities, playing with their friends and relaxing,” Trammell said.
The Hope Cottages are designed to encourage socializing with neighbors.
“The main design intent of these houses for autistic individuals is to help them in creating a community with one another,” said Capstone project manager Holly Burrow.
The cottages are designed for social gatherings, with double-height common rooms and kitchens. They will differ from existing residences by offering outdoor living spaces, including screened-in porches, a common outdoor space with a fire pit and a pavilion that overlooks the nearby Turkey Foot Lake.
“The Hope Cottages represent a hope for a better future for individuals with autism. So many parents with aging children with autism ask, ‘What will happen to my child when I am gone?’” said Trammell.