This Connecticut Family Finds Solace in KenCrest’s Group Homes


Adam Swanke lives a meaningful life with autism through ups and downs in KenCrest’s Connecticut group home.

By Sydney Kerelo

Diagnosing, treating, and understanding autism has changed drastically in the past 20 years, and for one Connecticut family, the journey was challenging.

33 years ago, Rosemary and Robert Swanke welcomed their second son, Adam, into this world. According to Rosemary, Adam’s lungs weren’t developing at the rate they should have been, so when he was an infant, he was incredibly colicky, nothing suited him, and he was up at night constantly.

“When Adam was around six months old, we took him to get evaluated,” says Rosemary. “We took him to the neurologist, then a different neurologist, Saint Francis hospital, then up to Boston, trying to figure out what was wrong with him at the time.”


Adam Swanke dressed as Elvis./Photo courtesy of Robert Swanke

Every doctor the Swanke’s saw would say, ‘no, he looks okay,’ because there weren’t any physical abnormalities. But, when Adam was three years old, Robert and Rosemary took him to a Yale Child Study Center, where he was finally diagnosed with pervasive development delay—a diagnosis doctors would later give to those on the autism spectrum before it became commonly known.

Adam then underwent speech therapy for toddlers, physical therapy, and occupational therapy for toddlers through a birth-to-three program. Then he entered the school and received special services through his school.

“Adam didn’t start walking until he was two years old, wasn’t potty trained until he was seven,” says Rosemary. “So everything was significantly delayed for him moving forward. When we put him in the school system, they implemented a new preschool program for children with special needs. The classroom would integrate ‘modeling students’ who would model typical behaviors—remember this was 30 years ago, so that was an amazing feat back then.”

Adam continued through the school system with extra support, including being taught sign language to communicate since he is nonverbal. His school focused on activities of daily living to integrate him with other kids within the school.

While Adam was improving in some areas of life, Rosemary and Robery were still having trouble with Adam.

“Adam has such a sweet disposition, and he loves to dance and swing,” says Rosemary. “Adam has four siblings, one older brother and three younger siblings and Adam at times would have outbursts. He would get frustrated with our younger kids because they could do things he couldn’t, like screaming at them or grabbing them.”


Adam Swanke with his mother Rosemary and father Robert./Photo courtesy of Robert Swanke

Rosemary recalls how Adam always wanted to be somewhere else, and he would constantly escape from the house through the front door, over the fence or even out of the upstairs window.

The Swanke’s put childproof handles on their doors and special locks on the windows, but Adam found ways around them.

“One day, he got up at dawn and walked into my neighbors’ house across the street,” says Rosemary. “They’re asleep in their bedroom, and he comes in the room, and it’s a little scary, but they woke up, and they’re like ‘hi Adam’ and Adam’s like ‘hi hi hi’ which is all he would say. So, they called my husband and told us he was over there, and they said they’d bring him back after they give him breakfast.”


Adam Swanke/Photo courtesy of Robert Swanke

When Adam turned 15 or 16, GCS recommended putting him on the waiting list for a group home. Around that time, KenCrest started a Connecticut Community Living program, and Adam was a good match. He moved into the group home when he was 21.

“KenCrest included us in the whole process, looking at homes, exploring the various areas, the design, the changes needed,” says Rosemary. “One of Adams outlets is going on a swing, it helps him calm down, and that was one of the things we asked for, which they provided.”

When Adam moved into the group home, it was the first home KenCrest had in CT, and because of that, it was further away from Swanke’s home. So after some time, the family requested he move closer, and they complied. He moved two more times after that and eventually ended up in his current home.

Now, Adam is happy with his home, and he attends a day program throughout the week and often visits his family.

“I think there’s a lot of options for people who have children with autism,” says Rosemary. “We had Adam home until he was 21, and I always look at it as he’s just like my other kids. All of my kids grow up and leave the house, and moving into a group home is a normal expectation of life for them.”

Learn more about Connecticut Community Living, under our Residential Programs section.

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