By John Lauring, Lauring Construction
Campus-Like Environment Serves Young People with Autism
In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to 2016 data. Research conducted by Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span for the needs of individuals with autism and their families, shows early intervention affords the best opportunity to support healthy development and deliver benefits across the lifespan.
Committed to supporting people living with autism and other developmental disabilities at home, school, work, and as members of their families and communities, Amego was founded in 1971 by the Sangree Stokes family, and, 50 years later, continues to serve its very first student.
Four years ago, Amego developed an initial concept for a series of group homes in a suburban setting. William J. Masiello Architect Inc. worked closely with Amego from the start to develop a complete master plan which would create a residential campus in New England for students with autism. After an exhaustive search for a property near its school on Grove Street in Franklin, Mass., Amego acquired a 50-acre site at 724 Washington Street in Franklin in 2018. Once complete in the Spring of 2022, the new campus will offer residential services to 42 individuals ranging from age eight through 22.
Located just one mile from the Amego school, the architect and engineers designed a cluster of eight buildings including six houses with an adjacent multipurpose building along Washington Street. The houses are situated close to one another along the one-way perimeter road with linking backyards to create the feeling of being in a neighborhood. Three of the houses are one-story and designed to be handicap accessible while the other three are two-story houses. Each house has an on-site program coordinator plus assistant coordinator and direct care staff to service residents. Residents will have their own bedroom and share three bathrooms, a kitchen, and a common area. Designed with a rural New England aesthetic, the colorful exterior palate of materials includes metal roofs, decay resistant board and batten siding, cedar shingles, and clapboards. The houses feature products and materials with long-term durability and high performing mechanical systems. Interiors of the houses are designed for abuse resistance and acoustics but detailed to present the feel of a typical family home.
Central Location Maximizes Programming
The six houses to be built will replace three existing residential programs in surrounding towns while increasing capacity by 20 students. This new residential model will allow Amego to give some of its students a more thoughtful transition to the adult world. Locating shared resources in a central location will allow Amego to share staff and nursing resources, lending itself to both better and more cost-effective programming.
The one-story Club House has multi-purpose rooms which can be used as classrooms as well as for leisure activities such as movies and games. The lawn outside can be used for community gatherings such as barbecues with families and residents. The campus will utilize the edge of conservation land for walking trails and nature paths accessible to residents and staff.
While the site is approximately 50 acres, the eight buildings will only occupy seven acres to have minimal impact on the land. EarthDesign Landscape Architecture LLC designed an outdoor activity area which includes an open lawn, playground, and half basketball court at the center of the complex to provide space for the residents to enjoy. Picnic tables and benches for use by residents and staff are situated alongside the walkway which encircles the activity area. To ensure the safety of the residents, a six foot fence with gates will be erected around this area, and trees will be planted around its perimeter to provide shade and a more campus-like feel.
Thoughtful design and construction will create a campus-like environment with a community feel which will ease the transition from school to the adult world for Amego’s students.