Camphill Communities: Supported Living for Adults with ASD

November 2, 2011

A growing number of young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder are reaching adulthood.  Families are searching for options and opportunities; for living arrangements that work and employment opportunities that are well designed and meaningful.  In the coming weeks, I will highlight programs and opportunities that are in place.  It’s a starting point for families like mine to begin to investigate options. 

Laura Shumaker is the mother of a young adult with ASD and the author of A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism (www.laurashumaker.com).  She also writes a blog for the San Francisco Chronicle (www.sfgate.com ). In this blog post, she shares her son’s experience with Camphill Communities in California. 

July 26, 2010 was the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities. Our first child, a son, was 4 years old when George H. Bush signed the act into law. Soon after, we would learn that Matthew was “developmentally delayed”, and we scurried around frantically trying to help him ‘catch up’.

Little did I know that 20 years later, I would be celebrating the Americans with Disability Act with Camphill Communities in Soquel California (www.camphill.org), a place that has enriched the lives of so many with developmental disabilities, including my son Matthew’s. He is 25 now and has autism.

Matthew joined Camphill Communities California nearly two years ago, and was the first to take part in Camphill’s Supported Living Model.

We first heard about Camphill when Matthew was a teenager. His already impulsive and aggressive behavior had taken a dangerous turn, and we realized that he needed more supervision and support than we or the local school could provide. He attended Camphill Special School in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania through his teen years and thrived.

Founded by Karl Konig and inspired by the anthroposophical teachings of Rudolf Steiner, Camphill California is part of the International Camphill Movement, a worldwide initiative for social change with over a hundred affiliates worldwide.

In every Camphill community, the vision of community living involves relationships of mutual respect, education and meaningful work, real participation in community life, a stress-reducing rhythm of daily activities, seasonal celebrations, a rich artistic and cultural life, natural therapies, and acceptance, individual recognition, and dignity for everyone.

Nestled between the north shore of Monterey Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains, Camphill Communities California is one of 10 Camphill Communities in North America. Located on six acres of land near Santa Cruz, it is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, a member of the Camphill Association of North America, and a supporter of the Camphill Foundation.

At Camphill California, community members are responsible for maintaining six acres of organic flower, herb and vegetable gardens; an orchard and a vineyard. Others work in the weaving studio, crafting a variety of hand-woven items. Maintaining two large residential houses and smaller homes is another daily responsibility of community members.

“Camphill Communities California is beautiful in many ways, “says Dominique van Hooff, whose son Frans is a resident of Camphill California and a friend to Matthew,” no one is treated as disabled; everyone is given the right, at their own pace, in their own ways, to contribute to a very unique community that values genuinely all of its members. Since his arrival, our son Frans is developing himself fully in ways we never suspected he could in our wildest dreams.”

We too have seen enormous growth in Matthew. Not only is he a part of the Camphill Community, he is acknowledged every day for his contribution to its vibrancy. The last time Matthew was home for a visit, he was anxious to get back.

“I’m leading Men’s Bible Study tonight,” he said “and my friends are counting on me!”

Amen