This photo taken Jan. 27, 2018, shows Ingrid Basson lending a helping hand to her 17 year-old son Sam who asked for help while constructing a Batmobile from Legos at their Dallas home. The Bassons moved here from the Chicago area six months ago after reading about the 29 Acres program planned in Cross Roads, Texas. Sam who is on the autism spectrum will someday live at the Denton County development which focuses on housing and employment opportunities for adults with autism. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Tom Fox

DALLAS (AP) — The first part of a $12 million project in Denton County that’s aimed at creating job and housing opportunities for adults with autism officially launches this year.

The Dallas Morning News reports starting in mid-February, adults 18 and older who have a primary diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and who have completed high school can apply for placement in the 29 Acres Transition Academy, the founders say.

The two-year transition program will help young people with autism learn to live independently, and offer specialized job training and employment assistance.

Residents will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis as they meet the criteria. Training will begin in August for the eight who are accepted.

It’s just one part of a project that was first reported by The Dallas Morning News last year.

A University Park couple, Clay Heighten and Debra Caudy, announced plans to create a long-term solution for people like their 20-year old son, Jon, who has a diagnosis of autism and lives at home.

The couple started a nonprofit and made a $750,000 personal investment in 29 acres of land in the town of Cross Roads, where they plan to build a community with duplexes, an activity center and educational programs meant to teach higher-functioning young adults to become more self-sufficient.

"Our vision is becoming a reality. It just really speaks to the need," said Caudy, who is in her 60s and worried about what will happen to Jon when she and Clay are no longer around.

Autism is a group of developmental disorders usually diagnosed in childhood that fall on a wide-ranging spectrum; some children have only mild symptoms. Others are severely disabled. Often individuals with the condition have difficulty communicating. Some exhibit repetitive behaviors.

News about the 29 Acres effort last year refueled a national conversation about the need to prepare for an estimated half million teenagers with autism expected to reach adulthood over the next decade.

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