A few months ago, the Island Autism Group bought a 17-acre stretch of farmland in West Tisbury with plans to create a full-time residential home and community for autistic children and adults. The proposed community is called The Hub House, and will offer a mix of programming, therapeutic support and career-building activities for its residents — from farming and gardening to horseback-riding and swimming.

The model, based on a year-round living center in Connecticut for children with cancer, is the culmination of a gradually, unfolding dream of Kate DeVane, president and co-founder of the Island Autism Group.

“Having a kid with autism is a really complex road," Ms. DeVane said. "We’re trying to make sure that people have the freedom to decide, so they’re living the way they and their families think they should live.”

Ms. DeVane started the Island Autism Group 13 years ago with Marcy Bettencourt, another mother of a child with autism. She said that when her two-year-old son, Mark, began showing signs of autism, she wasn’t sure where to begin.

“I was shocked. It’s kind of a baptism by fire when you have a kid with autism,” she said. “You read as much as you can, you learn about it and you do everything you can to sort of bring them along just the way you would with a typical kid.”

When Mark reached school age a few months later, Ms. DeVane enrolled him in Project Headway ­— a pre-kindergarten, public-school program on the Island with specific support for special needs children. She was impressed with the school but also felt something was missing due to the constraints of any public program.

“We realized that while the school program was fantastic, it didn’t have everything it needed,” Ms. DeVane said.

She joined forces with Ms. Bettencourt, forming the Island Autism Group initially as a fundraising initiative, hosting community teas and auctions to help purchase technology for the school and fund extra-curricular programs for students on the spectrum.

Over the years, the campaign has raised $100,000 for the school system. It has also evolved, offering summer camps, after-school programs and the proposed live-in community center in West Tisbury.

“We started with bake sale type stuff and the whole thing has just grown,” Ms. DeVane said. “The community really came out for us once they realized we were there.”

Ms. DeVane, who lives in West Tisbury with her husband, two children and their three dogs, moved to the Island full-time in her early twenties. She said the Island’s tightly-knit, year-round community helped inspire her to found the organization.

“It’s such a giving community,” she said, recalling the people and places that first drew her to the Vineyard. “I remember when my kids were born and I didn’t know what was going to happen, I thought at least I live in a community that’s so caring and inclusive. That’s how I knew that it was fine to be here with my son.”

Founding a nonprofit, however, had never been part of Ms. DeVane’s long term plans. Her firsthand experience as a mother ultimately changed her path from a career incorporating her college degree in fine arts and sculpture.

“I wanted my son and all kids who have autism to lead happy, healthy, productive lives and not to just sit in a corner because they can’t communicate very well,” she said.

Looking back, she also credits her mother, who ran a nonprofit herself, as a source of inspiration. “I think I got a lot of what I do now from being my mother’s daughter.”

Ms. DeVane said she hopes the Hub House model can inspire other communities with similar challenges.

“I always say there needs to be one of these in almost every town in Massachusetts,” she said. 

“When my kids were born, I never imagined that this would be where I was going with my life,” she continued. “I’m happy that this is the way I went.”