Q: WHAT DOES THE FOUNDATION DO?
Urban Autism Solutions is focused on providing a fully-integrated, long-term residential community with diverse vocational and social programming that encourages and develops increasing levels of independence, psychiatric stability, socialization and community involvement for young adults (18 - 35 years old) with autism and related social and communication challenges.
We have carefully selected our Chicago location to ensure the community environment and proximity of services and transportation that provide the basis for our integrated program. Our services, initiatives and relationship with other organizations are all based on their contribution to improving outcomes for our residents. Additionally, we offer many of our social and vocational programs to non-residents for skill development.
Q: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN URBAN AUTISM SOLUTIONS AND JMTF?
Recognizing the need to provide solutions to young adults with autism, Julie and Michael Tracy created the Julie and Michael Tracy Family Foundation (JMTF) in 2012. Now in its fourth year of operations, we support a combined staff of individuals and an array of programs and services that are better described by our new name, Urban Autism Solutions (UAS). We remain committed to maintaining our unique identity as a boutique, social service agency that fills an immense need for the families who seek our expertise and supports.
UAS offers peace of mind that your adult loved one is developing the independence and skills to be a long-term member of an urban community through involvement in a thoughtful and managed environment. In addition we expect - and need - our families to see themselves as community members where their young adult is one part of a growing system that offers support and gives support when needed.
Q: WHAT IS EXPECTED OF ME AS A PARENT OR A FAMILY? WHAT DOES UAS PROVIDE AND WHAT DO FAMILIES PROVIDE?
Your participation in this journey is always welcome in whatever form is best for you and your child. Our program is designed for residents to be or become as fully independent of their parents as possible. We anticipate the families will want to furnish the bedroom. To better assess how we may help you, please fill out our preliminary residency program questionnaire.
Q: WHAT WILL AN AVERAGE DAY/WEEK BE LIKE FOR MY CHILD?
Every week residents engage in activities that encourage and develop independence, socialization, learning and community involvement. Schedules will be created for each resident according to their specific needs and abilities.
A sample day may include a part-time job, internship, job shadow, or volunteer work. We also offer voluntary participation in a scheduled program activity at the residence, such as a cooking class, budget work or completion of home maintenance care and chores.
We have also created ways for residents to participate in our micro-businesses, Washdog and/or Growing Solutions Farm. There are also a number of educational opportunities at nearby schools and colleges.
Q: WHAT IF MY CHILD DOES NOT WISH TO PARTICIPATE IN THE SOCIAL ACTIVITIES OR OTHER PROGRAMS?
A major element of the complete program is developing socialization skills and a desire to be a part of the community. Our homes are designed with a mix of public and private space so that some activities occur in the home and involve others from the community. Our vocational and educational opportunities occur in the immediate neighborhood and some occur in the residence. While there will certainly be circumstances when a resident will choose not to participate, the goal and expectation is for each resident to become comfortable over time. Private spaces are always available for those who wish to opt out.
Q: CAN THE PROGRAM ACCOMMODATE AN INTEREST MY CHILD HAS THAT ISN’T PART OF THE CURRENT PROGRAM?
One goal in setting up your young adult's customized program is developing skills and interests as part of the path to greater independence. To that end and within reason, we anticipate accommodating a wide variety of vocational and educational and social interests. Individual supports and activities outside of our planned activities, can be arranged for additional fees.
Q: HOW IS RUSH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER FOR AUTISM ASSESSMENT RESEARCH TREATMENT AND SERVICES (AARTS) INVOLVED?
A distinct advantage UAS offers is our relationship with, and proximity to, Rush University Medical Center's AARTS program and the outcome-based best practices we have integrated into our program based on this relationship. The AARTS Center is an important part of our program, and we look forward to fully describing the advantages it has brought, and will continue to bring to our program. Participation in this aspect of our program is completely voluntary.
Q: CAN WE KEEP OUR CHILD’S DOCTOR/PSYCHIATRIST? WHAT IF THERE IS A CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT?
Individual choice in discernment is at the heart of our programming development and all residents are offered the same opportunities to make these determinations. An initial appointment and medical review with the Rush AARTS Medical Director is needed for all residents to ensure an appropriate medical program is in place regardless of the provider. Among the advantages we include when opting for coverage with the Rush Medical Director is emergency and on-call medical management of crises situations.
While psychiatric follow-up visits with any provider are part of our program, the on-site staff, according to procedure, will handle any medically related situation any time of day or night.
Among the advantages we include when opting for coverage with the Rush Medical Director is emergency and on-call medical management of crises situations.
Q: HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO BE PART OF THE RESIDENTIAL PROGRAM?
Our program fees vary but they typically cost approximately $6,000 per month, the first year. As your child develops increasingly in independence, the fees will likely decrease. We work with each family individually to determine the most affordable approach based on the individual needs of the client.
Q: WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT CAPACITY AND WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS? HOW WILL YOU DETERMINE WHO LIVES HERE?
Our Project 1212 home currently offers residency to four young adults. The home has private, 2nd floor bedrooms, an adjoining shared bathroom for two and a private bath for one, as well as two small sitting/activity spaces for the residents. An additional bedroom with private bathroom is in the lower level. The main floor, with living, kitchen, dining and activity spaces are available for both public and private use to accommodate the variety of activities available. Project 1212 is currently operated as a Community Integrated Living Arrangement (CILA) by A+ Autism Solutions, a licensed state provider for the home and community based waiver.
UAS has also opened additional privately-funded residence nearby on Ada Street. In addition, we are supporting young adults in the community around us who join programs at Project 1212, and may live more independently with individualized supports that we provide.
Once parents/guardians are confident our program is matched to the needs of their adult child, we look forward to going through the admissions process as thoughtfully and quickly as possible. Potential residents should be able to achieve the goals of living out of the line of site for 3-4 hours, using a smartphone and taking public transportation after support is offered.
Offers of residency are based on the specific needs of a prospective resident, their ability and desire to take advantage of our full program offerings, as well as the existing residents in a specific home. As our program grows, we will consider expanding our services to accommodate individuals with more significant needs.
Q: DO YOU TAKE CILA OR HOME BASED WAIVER FUNDS?
Yes. We work with you to determine all the available funding sources for residency, social network programs or vocational development.
Q: IF I FEEL YOUR PROGRAM IS A GOOD FIT FOR US, WHOM MAY I SPEAK TO AND WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?
We are glad you feel Urban Autism Solutions is a good fit and look forward to answering all of your questions and going through the application process. And of course we are available to give you a personal tour of the local area and our specific program sites. Applicants should complete a brief application and submit the form with a $175.00 fee to begin the process. Please contact the Executive Director and Co-founder, Julie Tracy, at Julie@jmtf.org, and you can scroll down to view the next steps.
Q: HOW LONG DOES THE APPLICATION PROCESS TAKE?
We expect the process to take 4-5 weeks and know the application process can be stressful. Our promise to you is to keep you informed throughout and make ourselves available to answer your questions. Simply put, we view the start of the process to be the start of our relationship with you and your child.
Q: START THE DIALOG WITH THOSE AFFECTED AND PUT TOGETHER A LIST OF QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS.
A thorough review is necessary to get to know any program. To start, we suggest you have an open dialog with others that will be affected by a decision to participate in Urban Autism Solutions. From the candidate, immediate and extended family to trusted friends, other caregivers and your medical team, what are their thoughts and what questions can they contribute to your list? Try prioritizing the list based on the importance of the answer.
While we have put together a great residential program, it is likely that ours, like others, won’t offer everything you are looking for. It’s important that we both determine if our program has any omissions that are vital for your situation.
Q: CAN WE CHAT?
We treat our initial conversation as the start of a potential partnership that will include two steps. The first is to simply introduce ourselves and allow us to respond to your highest priority questions. If, after this initial conversation you want to proceed, and we believe we can offer what you need, we will schedule a second conversation.
So that we can thoughtfully respond to your longer list of questions, we ask that you send us a short description of your situation and needs along with your list of questions. You may want to revisit your list after our first call and make changes as you see fit. To facilitate this second conversation we’ve developed a short form that you can either fill out online or print and fill out by hand. Click here to access the form.
A $175.00 admission/application fee is required in order to review your form and follow up with a more in depth second call. We also require documentation of your ability to provide program and residential fees if paying privately.
Q: TAKE A TOUR
During the second Wednesday of each month, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., we invite you to attend our open house at our residence at 1212 W. Flournoy (Chicago). During this time, we invite you to stop by, learn more about and see firsthand, the solutions we are creating for young adults with autism. (Open houses do not require a reservation.)
Q: REFERRAL TO THE RUSH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER AARTS PROGRAM
A distinct advantage Urban Autism Solutions offers is our relationship with and proximity to Rush University Medical Center and the outcome-based best practices we have integrated into our program based on this relationship. Our affiliation with Rush affords us access to timely medical care during moments of psychiatric crises as well as professional and staffing relationships with the Departments of Occupational Therapy and Speech-Language Pathology. We also employ graduate students to work with us and further enhance the quality of care we offer to our residents.
All residents will need some form of assessment and medical clearance from our partners in the Rush AARTS program. At the very least, we require one visit with a psychiatrist from the AARTS program to establish a medical baseline and for admission approval. In order to provide the safest and most appropriate environment, we cannot admit any residents without this step.
Depending on the nature of your family’s needs, we also recommend a records review and visit with the Clinical Director, Dr. Rachel Loftin, to determine if further psychological assessment is warranted. We feel that we can most effectively help your family if you make the best use of these resources at the start.
Developing individualized programs begins with accurate assessment data. We cannot guarantee that assessments done by other providers will automatically be accepted, but we will consider each set of documents on a case-by-case basis. Full disclosure of psychiatric and independent-living challenges by families is needed in order to appropriately serve all residents safely and effectively.
Q: SECURE A SPACE
At this stage, we assume that you and your family member have completed the assessment process, cleared the medical assessment and have decided/been invited to join our community. For a privately funded home, we will accept a non-refundable deposit of $6,000 to hold a designated bedroom for your family member. For CILA clients, we will manage the process through A+ Autism Solutions as well as designated members of the Rush AARTS team to begin developing the structure around which your family member will begin their life with us.
We anticipate that some residents will have very clear-cut schedules involving school, work and volunteer opportunities while others will need additional assistance in exploring these and other options. We will begin to include you in our social network programs as well until your move in date is complete.
Q: DO I NEED TO GET A VOCATIONAL ASSESSMENT FOR MY CHILD TO PARTICIPATE IN ONE OF THE UAS VOCATIONAL PROGRAMS?
A major element of our vocational program is to unlock the potential of job seekers. We provide a customized interview and follow-up with several vocational consultants who work closely with UAS. We also assist with a link to our DRS community rehab partner, if the candidate has a case open, and can facilitate documentation of need for DRS. Using specialized training, with social and medical support provided at this critical juncture is our formula for success.
Q: MY CHILD MAY NOT BE INTERESTED IN URBAN AGRICULTURE OR WASHING AND WALKING DOGS. ARE THERE OTHER VOCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR MY CHILD?
We have designed a special curriculum to support young adults with autism in handling animals and working in agricultural spaces. However, neither program is a one-size-fits-all model and your family members' skills and abilities should be a match for our mutual success.
We have been conducting outreach in the West Loop and Taylor Street neighborhoods as well as throughout the city, to develop multiple relationships with businesses and community associates in the area. Following the customized vocational interview process, we will work to find a vocational opportunity to match the skills and interests of your child. This process often takes time and we ask for your patience and collaboration while we help to develop the long-term path for success.
Q: WILL MY CHILD GET WAGES FOR WORKING IN A VOCATIONAL JOB? IS THERE TRANSPORTATION TO THE VARIOUS JOB SITES?
Based on the skill set and experience, some of the jobs may provide wages. It is our goal to work toward increasing independence by helping your young adult develop skills that will provide income. UAS created an urban model as it allows for a wide variety of opportunities as well as easy access and public transportation. For this reason, while we will assist with teaching transportation skills, we do not provide private transportation to our vocational programs.
Q: WHERE IS THE LOCATION OF GROWING SOLUTIONS FARM, WHEN CAN I VISIT AND IS THERE PARKING NEARBY?
Growing Solutions Farm is located in the Illinois Medical District at the intersection of Leavitt and Campbell Parkway. The farm is open Monday-Friday from 9:30 am – 12:00 pm. May through October.
It is recommended that you contact our lead grower, Gwenne Godwin, at Gwenne@jmtf.org so we can plan for your visit and schedule a time that we can give you a tour and answer your questions.
Network 1212 FAQ
Q: WHAT TYPES OF EVENTS ARE PART OF NETWORK 1212?
Network 1212 offers a range of activities, events, outings and educational meetings in the community space of Project 1212 and in the city. For instance, your young adult can participate in the weekly Treks with Trace, Oscar Parties, festivals, cooking classes, in-house movie nights, movies at Millennium Park, bike rides through Slow Roll Chicago and monthly meet-ups at Pompei on Taylor Street.
Q: HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO PARTICIPATE IN EACH EVENT?
Realizing that budgets are limited for many young adults with autism, we charge participants a minimal fee to help cover the cost of the activity. Our meet ups at Pomepi cost $5.00, with the foundation subsidizing remaining costs. Other fees will vary based on activity and location. Treks with Trace,that end in dinner outings require some funds from participants (approximately $10).
Scholarships may be available and donations are greatly appreciated.
Q: I WOULD LIKE TO VOLUNTEER AT AN EVENT AND HOST OR CO-HOST AN EVENT. IS THIS POSSIBLE AND WHO DO I CONTACT TO DISCUSS THIS OPPORTUNITY?
We welcome and appreciate volunteers and help with hosting events and outings. Based on the activity and location, we may need one or several volunteers.