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Tiny houses may offer independence to adults with special needs

It’s tough to think about, but we’re all going to die someday. Now imagine the fear if you have an adult child who can’t live without your help.

It’s tough to think about, but we’re all going to die someday. Now imagine the fear if you have an adult child who can’t live without your help.

Cyndi Greene is the main caretaker for her adult son with autism. Sean, 23, plays video games like other young adults, but he also needs his mom's help for routine activities like shaving and cooking. His communication skills are also at a younger level.

“[Sean] was diagnosed at 18 months," said Greene. "I actually went to put him down in the evening. He was perfectly typical and I got up the next morning and he was sitting in the corner of his crib looking through me, no eye contact and we had no language, overnight.”

Recently, Sean had to adjust to his younger sister moving away for college.

"Change is what makes him very uncomfortable," said Greene.

Sean’s mom sought ways to prepare him for a future where he could live more independently, although he will always need support due to autism.

Cyndi Greene helped Sean shave. Photo: WUSA9

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"Parents are scared,” said Greene. “They have these kids. What's going to happen when we're gone? We have to plan."

In Maryland 8,000 people have been put on a wait list for housing individuals with mental or developmental delays. A few lawmakers have worked to chip away at the number. Maryland State Delegate Guy Guzzone, D-Md., helped 800 people on the list.

But Greene didn't want to wait.

“I want to prepare him, I want to have something that’s comfortable for him,” Greene said. “That’s why the tiny houses...will be a good choice for us...for him.”

Two parents in Montgomery County have used the idea of tiny houses to help their son and others with special needs. Julie and Peter Tittle cashed in a huge chunk of their retirement savings to launch Humble Houses in Germantown, Md.

Humble Houses are small, mobile homes that are designed for adult children with special needs and their caregivers. According to HumbleHouses.com, current home models cost between $64,900 and $104,900.

The couple got the motivation to start Humble Houses because of their 19-year-old son, Jake, who has autism.

“He doesn’t always want to be living with us, he wants to be independent so this is the way that I think that can happen,” said Julie Tittle.

The Tittle’s envisioned creating a community of adults with special needs who lived near each other. Although, the couple will face many hurdles including complex zoning laws.

According to Peter Tittle, a group of tiny houses would make it easier for the county to direct its services to a concentrated area.

Jake Tittle with father, Pete Tittle. Photo: Tittle family

If their plan of creating a community does flourish, Jake can live independently while they can still be nearby to help.

“Jake is a brilliant guy. He’s got tremendous potential, but he has a lot of self-doubt,” Tittle said of his son.

Now a tiny house may just give Jake the space to shake off doubt and unleash his potential.

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