Why Parents Are Building A $12M Autism Community At Denton County

By Collie Lane, Parent Herald January 13, 11:24 pm

A groundbreaking for an autism community in Denton County is about to happen soon. The community is expected to house a staff of 150 to 200 trained professionals who will attend to the needs of people with autism in about 15 homes.

The project is not like any other across North Texas. Debra Caudy, the founder of the project, wondered why there's no facility for people with autism in this county considering it's among the largest ones. The communities around Denton also have the same concern but no one took a step until Caudy started the pursuit of setting up the autism community, WFAA reported.

Caudy, a mother of four in Dallas, has retired from her long and successful career as an oncologist. She gave her life raising and taking care of her son Jon when he was diagnosed with autism at two-years-old.

Caudy's 19-year-old son and all adults with autism currently need a special facility across DFW, according to Caudy. Hence, she and her husband Clay Heighten, who is also a doctor, decided to push the project.

In 2015, the Dallas couple acquired 29 acres of land in Cross Roads, Texas in Denton County. They were planning for a groundbreaking this year in a "gated community of sorts." The place will be where adults with autism will live, go to work and continue to grow.

Caudy and Heighten were both overwhelmed by the responses they got from the people for their project. The donations almost reached $12 million.

"These men and women want jobs. They want to pay taxes. It gives them a feeling of fulfillment like any of us want," Caudy said. She pointed out the Cross Roads was an unbelievable partner. The town of around 1,200 people warmly welcomed its new neighbors.

"It really is a symbiotic relationship," said Becky Ross, city planner for Cross Roads. The community is very much willing to take their part in the project.

Meanwhile, about 1 in 68 children in America has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That is why America needs more people like Caudy and Heighten who will have the courage to take the first steps to help these individuals with special needs.

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