By Patty Pacelli
Independent living is an important goal for young adults with autism, and studies have shown that it can lead to better employment success. The process can start early in life, and there are several things to help meet this goal while still living at home.
Your Child as a Roommate - During your child's late teens or early twenties, if still living at home, treat your student more like a roommate and have expectations of them as if they were living on their own, such as doing their own laundry, keeping their own room or space clean (or not), buying their own food and toiletries, and anything else that had been provided when they were younger. To do this, they will need an allowance or "salary" of some kind, which will help them learn (with your instruction) to manage money. Have them pay you rent, and at least some of their car or transportation expenses, and some of their personal purchases. Along with this, get them started with a simple budgeting spreadsheet to manage their bills, purchases, and even some savings. We did this with both of our children, regardless of an autism spectrum diagnosis.
Moving Out - When your child does move out on their own, give them a lot of encouragement to do things their own way, but be available to help them as well. Depending on your relationship and your child, you may need to back off a little more than you'd like, or you may have to force them to do more on their own. Our son was very excited to be on his own, and wanted to arrange his items in his new place by himself, but some young adults might be too dependent on their parents, and the parents might need to push them to do more on their own. We tried to find the balance between making sure Trevor was living successfully and keeping safe, while letting him do things his way, even if he made some mistakes or it wasn't perfect.
Living independently, whether in stages while still at home, or in their own place, leads to greater self-esteem, confidence, household skills, knowledge and comfort with social situations, especially when living with roommates. This leads to less stress and more confidence and ability to learn new skills in the workplace.
For more about autism and preparing your child for employment, check out my book, Six-Word Lessons for Autism-Friendly Workplaces - Patty Pacelli
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.