Young Adults with Autism
The experience of young adulthood is challenging enough without the aspect of Autism thrown on top of it. Think about it, so much of young adulthood is the social aspect and the experience of getting a job and living independently. These are not generally strengths of individuals with Autism.
They want so much to fit in and be on their own. Their logical side can come up with the logistics of it- the budget, the plans, etc. But it is such a challenge for them. My heart aches for them, as they have these high ambitions with hesitancy and anxiety. As parents, how can we help our children through this?
Social Skills in Young Adulthood
Here is the scenario I often see: we push our kids with Autism to get involved socially in high school. They are going to therapy and social skills classes. They have assistants in their classes. Parents follow up with teachers and staff at the schools constantly. Parents help them through everything. Then high school ends. They are expected to possibly attend college and move forward with being an adult. But they have had so much assistance throughout their childhood that they really do not have the maturity and knowledge to know figure it out. We have held their hand through these social situations, and now they must do it on their own.
Individuals with Autism can be very successful in college academically, but socially they struggle. Many parents would say this is a curse in disguise, as generally they will not be attending the frat parties and get involved with illegal things. But they begin to realize they do not fit in and anxiety and depression begins to rear its ugly head.
Then they begin applying for jobs. But socially they tend to not know how to interview well. They may be qualified for the job, but socially they cannot handle it. Finding a job that does not require a lot of social skills can be difficult.
Practice interview skills with your young adult. Give them tips and ideas. Help them find a job you know they can be successful at. Use therapists to help with these skills and ideas as well.
Another idea is try to keep them involved in some type of social atmosphere. For example, church groups or groups such as gaming groups might be a good fit. Use their hobbies as ideas to find groups for them to connect with. Basically, find a social group that they will likely stay with and enjoy. I would also encourage the social skills groups, but those can be very therapy based- find something else also that is more natural and enjoyable.
There is also the aspect of romantic relationships, which honestly is a whole other post for another day!
In our culture today, we put so much success on going to college. But honestly, people can be successful without college too, especially if it is a struggle for them. Now do not get me wrong, I think college is great, but it is not for everyone. If your child is struggling too much with it, do not push them. Find alternatives such as online college or simply not going for now and focusing on job skills.
This is the time in their life when you need to step back more and see what he/she is capable of doing. It is hard for us as parents because we have done so much for them already, but they need the independence skills before they can go out on their own.
First, find out what their ambitions are. Have them write it out and make goals. Have them also have backup plans if their first ambitions do not work out. Then encourage them through their goals and support in ways you can without micromanaging.
Moving out and Becoming Independent
This is a scary step for any parent- watching their child becoming independent enough to move out on their own and support themselves. With Autism this can be horrifying! Can they handle the stress and concepts? Can they pay bills and balance a checkbook? Will they be able to socially adjust appropriately? YIKES!
Again, encourage your son or daughter and help them without micromanaging the situation. Have them write out their goals and plans. Take them through the basic steps and allow them to show you they can handle it.
But most of all, allow them to make their mistakes. HARSH I know. When the mistakes are made, help them clean it up and move forward. And yes, this may mean moving back in, but now they understand what they need to do and have in order to gain the independence back again. This section is honestly another post entirely. But hopefully these thoughts and ideas can help prepare you for the beginning steps.
What to Plan for
Start thinking now how this will look for your family and your child. Start preparing them early while they are in high school for the challenges of life after school in adulthood. Let them help with your billing and budget so they understand the processes behind the independence. Encourage them to get involved in the social groups and hobbies.
Being prepared and ahead of the situation is always best, especially with Autism. Have plans and back up plans prepared. Try not to push too much, but give them gentle pushes when needed. And use a therapist to help through these transitions and ideas. Often they will not listen to you because you are mom and dad. Allow the therapist to push reality into them, and you encourage them and be their cheerleader.
These are all things I work with on my young adult clients. If you need help or ideas, contact me.
Help your child be as successful as they can be! Love them, encourage them, strengthen them. Prepare yourself for being the parent, but also being their support and friend now that they are independent. Good luck! 🙂