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Aacorn Farm will provide community for adults with autism

A Mangalitsa pig at a farm in McBain, Michigan.
Peter Payette/Interlochen Public Radio
A Mangalitsa pig at a farm in McBain, Michigan.

A new initiative in Kalamazoo county is in the works to provide a residential space for adults with autism, known as Aacorn Farm.

Aacorn stands for Autism Agricultural Community Option for Residential Need, and the organization is led by a group of parents who have children with autism. A residential community like this isn't the first of its kind, but it is for adults with autism.

The residential space aims to assist some of the nearly 50,000 Michigan residents who have been diagnosed with autism in Michigan, 16,000 of which are children.

Cathy Pinto is the mother of four, and the President of Aacorn Farm and spoke with Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty.

Pinto's 21-year-old son Ben is autistic, and when he was nine or ten, he fell in love with horses when he was taking horseback riding lessons.

Soon, Ben loved everything about farms.

His mother was inspired by her son's passion and began working with another mother to create a farm where autistic adults could live.

"It will be a wonderful place and will have homes where people with autism can live," Pinto said. "We would like people without autism to live there too, and have vocational opportunities for residents on the farm."

Pinto also hopes to work with the local college communities and get them involved on the farm.

"We want a vibrant community where people in our community come out to Aacorn and the residents of Aacorn are still a part of the Kalamazoo community."

Having more opportunities for people with autism is really important, Pinto said, because once the kids who have been diagnosed with autism grow up, they will drastically expand the current community of adults with autism.

Aacorn will potentially exist as a residential farm in two to five years. Pinto is working on Aacorn because farms are meaningful to her son, but she wants more opportunities become available for people with autism.

"My hopes are that every adult with autism and every adult with a disability is offered the opportunity to have as many options as possible so they can choose what life looks like for them."

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

To hear the full audio, click the link above.

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