Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.


Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Architecture (M.Arch.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



While some adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are high functioning and go on to lead successful and independent lives, many still face the difficult challenge of finding and securing adequate housing. As our economy changes and buying a house or renting an apartment become less and less affordable, many adults with ASD have to continue living with their aging parents. Government funding for adults with autism is limited and group homes are scarce and are typically poor in quality. Additionally, with ASD steadily increasing in prevalence, these options are becoming even more limited. Adults with ASD and their families are then confronted with the extreme stress of finding housing with limited budgets, quality, and time. This thesis proposes a model living community for adults with ASD that promotes connection to the larger community, nature, and builds life success through its architecture and programming. Set in Salem, Massachusetts, this model community was developed through analysis of recent literature on the topic of autism-friendly design, as well as interviews with professionals in field and parents of adult children with ASD. This thesis seeks to realize a model living community for adults with ASD and how connections and relationships can be strengthened between residents and the city of Salem, so that these adults not only have housing but also better access to critical resources and improved quality of life.


First Advisor

Erika Zekos