Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
February 22, 2024 ·  2 min read

She Built a $15,000 Cottage in the Backyard For a Brother With Autism: ‘The change has been incredible’

After relocating back to Hawaii from New York City to care for her 33-year-old autistic brother, Tiffany Chou made the decision to change his life forever. Describing it as a “game changer” to give him the much-needed independence he craved.

Tiffany decided to build her brother a backyard cottage in her garden in Maui after hearing he was terribly unhappy in the residential home he was living in. 36-year-old Tiffany teamed up with her boyfriend to see the project through.

Chris Chou in his new backyard cottage
Image Credit: SWNS

Challenges never held them back

The siblings, who were both adopted at a young age have last lived together 15 years ago. This had Tiffany apprehensive about her decision as her brother could often be challenging.

I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I moved back and took in Chris.” Said the accessory designer. “He can be a bit noisy and overwhelming so we decided that if he had his own independent space, just seconds from us, that would be ideal.”

With just $15,000, Tiffany and her boyfriend tore down an existing structure in their backyard. They then began the construction of his new backyard cottage. Chris was directly involved in every step of the project, even getting to choose the color of his new home.

Read: Father builds $35m theme park for daughter with special needs, it’s free for people with disabilities

Video Credit: SWNS YouTube

He absolutely loves his backyard cottage and the change has been incredible,” says Tiffany.

Chris moved into his new backyard cottage in August and absolutely loves his own space. “He’ll do his dishes without prompting. It’s really helped him become more independent.” Tiffany says.

There were many additional fittings included in designing his new home. “Chris is the thirstiest person you have ever met which means he is constantly up in the night drinking water and needing the toilet. We made sure his bathroom and a water tank was right by his bed.”

The kitchen was designed to include an induction cooktop so that there’s no risk of Chris leaving it on. Tiffany also prepares his meals in advance which are portioned out which he keeps in his refrigerator.

A beautiful home built from reclaimed materials

The entire backyard cottage was constructed from repurposed materials, even the furniture was sourced second-hand. This kept the costs down and gave Tiffany and her partner their own space. Chris now has his independence and own space.

He loves being an uncle and is great with Luna. It’s been a game-changer for all of us—I don’t have to constantly prompt him to do stuff anymore,” she said.

It started with a backyard cottage, it extended to a helping hand

Tiffany has since started up a project to help the community by setting up an employment service that is available to adults living with disabilities. Her business Depo Market is providing a much-needed service where creative and social job opportunities are made available to adults just like Chris, allowing them the independence they deserve.

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