Parents Are Developing This Neighborhood to Be a 'Utopia' for Adults With Autism


Parents in East Tennessee are working to create what they hope will be a “Utopia” for adults with autism who have aged out of the school system.

Autism Breakthrough of Knoxville provides many services, including in-home supports, personal assistance, job skill development and more, but its largest undertaking is the construction of a neighborhood in South Knoxville.

The neighborhood consists of seven homes on Thurmann Lane in South Knoxville and an additional six supported homes in and around the Knoxville metro area where staff transport and provide 24-hour support for residents with autism to the degree they require assistance.

Photo of a neighborhood with several houses and cars in the driveways.

This neighborhood is a safe and economical housing option for residents with autism to live independently from their parents. The organization provides a full range of services for residents of this neighborhood, including community living, services, recreation and employment.

“We sat down and kind of dreamed what would be Utopia for our kids, and Breakthrough was born. Is it Utopia? No, not yet, [but] we’re trying to get there,” Beth Ritchie, Executive Director of Autism Breakthrough of Knoxville, told WBIR News. “People think of autism more with little children but little children grow up and autism does not go away.”

The nonprofit was started 17 years ago by parents as a way to provide for their childrens’ futures. State and federal money, as well as private donations, help fund Autism Breakthrough of Knoxville.

Lance Fisher has autism and has been a resident in the South Knoxville neighborhood for the past four years.

“The reason why I moved here is because it’s a much better place to stay with roommates and a house manager and all that good stuff,” Fisher says in the video below.

Get more on the story from the video below: 

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

To the People Who Say There’s Something ‘Wrong’ With My Autistic Son

“If I didn’t know, I would never sense there was something wrong with him.” When I receive this feedback from others concerning my son being on the spectrum, I now perceive it as a backhanded compliment. Before, I came to peace with excusing other people’s choice of vocabulary. It stung. “Wrong with him.” I recently [...]

When My Son Asked If His Friends Left Because of His Autism

Two years ago, my eldest was diagnosed with autism. When that happened, a dear friend of mine said to me, “You mourn the child you thought you were going to have, Joanna, so you can embrace the child you were given.” I would like to say I have done that. When buggy (my eldest) was [...]

This Spider-Man's Secret Identity Makes His Visit to a Cancer Patient Even More Special

For the longest time, my youngest son said that when he grew up, he was going to be a cheetah. Then, after enough people told him it wasn’t possible, he changed it: “Fine, I’ll be a scientist who turns myself into a cheetah.” That persisted until his older brother politely asked him to stop telling people that [...]

Family of Teen With Autism Fighting Criminal Charges After Public Meltdown

In July 2015, 18-year-old Paul Gordo, who has autism, had a meltdown at a public library in Monterey, California, which resulted in him pushing a 58-year-old woman to the ground. Gordo is currently awaiting trial on a felony assault charge, and his parents, Steve and Susan Gordo, are fighting to have the case dropped. The family hoped Superior Court [...]