Independent residences open for adults with developmental disabilities

First of its kind housing opens in Central Florida

By Kirstin O’Connor - Reporter/Anchor
ORLANDO, Fla. - Erica Bonn, 27, walked through her new neighborhood with her watering can in hand.
 
"The hard part is trying out a new plant," Bonn told News 6 Anchor Kirstin O'Connor.
 
Her mother Jill said Bonn was diagnosed with autism at the age of 9.
 
"It's just difficult, when your child leaves for the first time, especially when they have a disability," said Jill Bonn.
 
But her daughter has always exceeded expectations, and this big move is no exception.
 
"So far I'm doing pretty good for myself," said Erica Bonn.
 
For the last two weeks, Erica has been living in one of the independent units at Quest Village, a community designed for adults with developmental disabilities.
 
"Housing for this population is a challenge, it's estimated that about 50,000 individuals will be turning 18 with a developmental disability over the next 5 to 10 years," said John Gill, president and CEO of Quest, Inc.
 
According to recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about 1 in 6 children in the United States ages 3 to 17 years old have a developmental disability. 
 
"We're 50, out of 50 states for support in the individuals that we serve," said Gill.
 
Navigating the application process for state support can be daunting for parents with children with developmental disabilities, sometimes waiting years on a waitlist. This is the first generation of adults with autism and developmental delays expected to outlive their parents.
 
"There's nothing like this in Central Florida, I mean I've been looking for years because what you think about is the day you're not around anymore," said Jill Bonn.
 
The forty-eight units in Quest Village are situated within walking distance from Waterford Lakes Town Center in Orlando. The price of living is dependent on the needs of the resident, and rent costs $379 to $597 a month.

"It is state of the art for Central Florida because it is really independent, we're not providing food service, we're not providing transportation," said Gill, "and so we believe that 
because of the way it's structured, it is unique."
 
In her first two weeks as an independent resident, Erica said she has stayed busy cooking for herself, starting a gardening club, and making new friends.
 

"The great thing about this is that it's a whole community of people, so she has a chance, you know, to have a social life. Which, for a lot of people that have, you know, on the autism spectrum that's one of their biggest problems, is not having any friends," said Jill Bonn.

 
"I like to think I'm going to be staying here long term," said Erica Bonn.
 
Bonn hopes to begin working in a library or office setting soon. In the meantime she's working on a project with other adults on the spectrum called "Autistically Crafted" to sell her knitted scarves and blankets at craft fairs. 

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