Young Adults with Autism

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.

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                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.

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                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.

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                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.

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                There is also the aspect of romantic relationships, which honestly is a whole other post for another day!

Beginning College

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                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.

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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.

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                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! 🙂

Contact Information

Jen Edwards

720-258-6392

jen@voyagescounseling.com

Cute vs. Socially Awkward

Cute vs. Socially Awkward

                “Oh he is so cute!”  We hear this often from people.  We simply smile and keep our thoughts to ourselves.  Our thoughts range from yeah we need to talk to him about that later or umm it is not really cute, it is rather inappropriate for his age.  He is only five, so yeah, some of it is rather cute or even funny, but in six months, one year, five years, is it still going to be cute or simply that ugly word awkward.

                A few months ago I took my son to the park.  Other children were playing and he wanted to be included but had no idea how to include himself appropriately other than demanding they all play by his rules when they already had a game going.  Later on he preceded to throw wood chips at a girl about his age.  He found this hilarious, she did not.  I got a nasty look from her mother; not surprising.  I finally caught my son and explained to him the rudeness of the situation, to which he laughed and said it was so funny!  He did not get it, and even to this day, he does not get it.  The girl eventually left the park; I felt bad and tried explaining to the mother my son has Autism.  She did not care and did not want to listen.  Such is the life of a parent with a kid on the spectrum.

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                When I have shared this story with others, I usually get a chuckle and some remark similar to, “That is a typical boy for you.”  Yes, true, that is a typical obnoxious boy, but at five he should be able to understand when I explain he needs to stop because she does not like things being thrown at her.  But instead he keeps throwing them and it is clear that he is doing it to because he thinks he is playing a game with her, when she clearly does not like it.  He is not doing it to be an obnoxious boy; he is doing it because he thinks it is a game that she is fully engaged in as well.  Socially awkward.

Is it Cute or Awkward?

                I laugh when I try to answer this because really there is no set criteria for cute vs. awkward; however there is a general standard of what is appropriate depending on age.  For example, my five year old making strange noises with his mouth may be a typical five year old trait, especially for boys, but let’s face it, this is not appropriate in certain situations such as church or classroom during instruction time.  A five year old should be able to begin deciphering between when it is appropriate to make noises and when it is not.  My son does not have that deciphering skill; he is not even close to obtaining it.

                I suppose it really depends on what is more socially acceptable in our culture.  Based on these general values, we try hard to teach our son what is appropriate and what is not.  And of course being on the spectrum things need to be logical for his mind to comprehend things, so when he asks me why it is not appropriate, I need a logical answer… and let’s face it, often there is not a logical answer except that it seems weird.

Explaining Social Awkwardness

                Like I said above, good luck explaining social awkwardness to a kid on the spectrum.  Some kids are able to get it and understand the grey area concept, but many are not capable of grasping this idea.  This is mostly due to the aspect that they are socially unaware of what is going on around them.  They are only capable of processing one thing at a time, so social cues and concepts generally get totally missed.

                We have tried using social cues or nonverbal signs for our son, and it is rather humorous because he either completely misses it, while looking right at us while we are doing the nonverbal sign, or he stops and asks us, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Why are you shaking your head like that?”  Totally awkward at the moment, but often funny when you look back at it later on.  But I admit, it is becoming less and less funny and more frustrating.

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                We do our best to catch the awkward moment in action and pull our son aside to explain to him that inappropriateness of the situation.  Generally he is too busy and focused on his own task to hear us, it often feels pointless.  We try to discuss it later on, but he usually does not remember the situation and gets rather confused.  But we will keep discussing it and hopefully he will eventually begin to understand.

                Often social skills groups or therapists will use social cards to teach these skills.  Again, this can be a bit difficult because it is not really concrete enough for them, but it helps and gets ideas flowing in them.  Here are some resources I found:

http://endlesspotentialinfo.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/social-skills-cue-cards/

http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/resources/strategies.html

http://www.setbc.org/pictureset/resource.aspx?id=322

http://www.incredibleyears.com/program/child.asp

                I encourage you as parents to continually work on these skills with your child.  Also, have therapists and teachers work on these skills as well.  It can be easily incorporated into therapy.  This is something I do with my young clients who are on the spectrum (and even my adult clients) to help them learn social skills.

Final Words and Thoughts

                My husband and I often feel anxious about our son’s future.  My main worry is will he be able to fit in well enough with his peers so that he is not teased constantly?  Even if he does not always pick up the teasing by others, eventually he will begin to realize the situation and then depression and other issues can begin to set in.  I can imagine many of you are reading this and going through this very struggle right now.  My heart goes out to each and every one of you.   I can feel your pain and despair.  I get it.

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                So my friends, continue to teach your child and be patient with them.  Love them and pray for them.  Get the help they need and the help you need.  You are your child’s greatest teacher, though sometimes I question if my son even listens to me.  If you need help, contact me.  Otherwise good luck and keep pressing on!

jen@voyagescounseling.com

720-258-6392