Older Aspergers (high functioning autistic) kids (19-years-old and up) are moving back home – or have never left! Why is this?
Between a troubled economy, crushing student loan debt, and social skills deficits that are part of the Aspergers condition, grown Aspergers kids are moving home at ever-increasing rates – or they have never left!
It's hardly surprising that a mixture of emotions (e.g., anger, anxiety, and possibly joy) flows when junior moves back home. If you're still trying to decide if this step is right for you, the "Are You Ready for a Refilled Nest?" quiz may help (located at the bottom of this article). But if you've already taken the plunge, it may be helpful to understand where the boomerang trend and its accompanying emotions are coming from, and the issues most likely to arise.
Moms and dads love their children. They want the best for them. When they see their children clearly making mistakes and bad choices, they immediately want to intervene. The key is to remember that they are grown-ups now and they have the right to make the choices they make as well as face the consequences, good or bad, of those choices. This is when all those years of teaching them should be kicking in. We all learn through our mistakes, and we all continue to make mistakes as grown-ups. Our adult Aspergers kids have the right to live as a mistake-making / consequence-facing human, just as we do.
When House Rules are established, they need to remain focused on the Household. The following is a general list of common areas to address:
• Chores— How will they be divided? Obviously the adult kids need to be responsible for the cleaning of their own private areas, but what about shared living areas? What is the timeline for doing the chores in the common areas? How will the laundry facility be shared?
• Company— If the entrance to their private living areas is not private, you have every right to set hours for entertaining. Other areas to address would be those house rules other members of the household must follow such as no one of the opposite gender in the bedroom, no company in the house after midnight, etc. House rules apply to all in the household.
• Conditions of Residence— These would be rules as to why they are being allowed to move in and what will cause an eviction. Some moms and dads have a general rule that any youngster living with them must be attending school full-time, working, or serving in the armed forces, as there will be no 'free ride'. If the youngster is in school full-time they live in the home rent-free. The other circumstances require the payment of rent, usually based upon their ability to pay.
• Household Influence— If you have a rule against no alcohol, no drugs, and no r-rated movies, for example, in your home; you have the right to extend that rule to the adult kids. Anything you believe to be harmful to the environment of your home or harmful by way of example or risk to the underage kids is eligible for rule setting in this category. These items must be carefully addressed so they do not become matters of running the adult child's life, or about what they do outside of the home. These rules need to stay strictly focused on the home environment.
• Rent— Does this amount cover just shelter, or are food and utilities covered as well? If food is not covered in the amount, will they buy their own groceries, or contribute groceries to the household? When is the rent due, and what is the late payment policy? Will a deposit be required? Will said deposit be returned in part or full? If so, under what circumstances?
• Their Kids and Pets— Keeping them under control and also living according to house rules. You have the right to have your privacy and your belongings respected. You have the right to expect them to parent their own kids and care for their own pets. This area can become an area of contention when moms and dads desiring to be helpful begin to interfere in the parenting style and routines of their adult kids. This is a huge no-no. They are grown-ups and those are their kids. Unless your grandkids are in imminent danger, you have no right to interfere.
Running Their Own Life—
It is difficult to see someone you love make choices that you know will have a bad outcome, or which you do not personally agree with. As moms and dads of adult Aspergers kids, you must first and foremost respect their rights as grown-ups.
Whether they live under your roof or not, you have no right to insist upon setting rules which interfere in their right to choose for themselves what to do with their own life. Some examples of Running-Their-Life Rules are as follows:
• How they dress or style their hair
• How they parent their own kids
• Places they may go
• Their diet and exercise program or lack thereof
• What line of work or field of study they may be involved in
• Where they may attend church or if they attend church or not
• Where they may work or go to school
• Whether they get piercings and tattoos
• Who they may associate with outside of your home.
In some cases, there is true and imminent danger involved to the safety and welfare of your adult youngster, their kids, your own underage kids, or yourself. In these cases, you have every right and responsibility to act. A few examples would be as follows:
• Alcohol and Drug abuse. If their life or the life of another is at risk by all means intervene. This is where programs such as Al-Anon can help you understand the dynamics and what you can and should do. You may have to become acquainted with the principles of Tough Love and actually hold an Intervention to help your adult youngster.
• Clear animal abuse or neglect as outlined by your state or local government. Your opinion that something is neglectful or abusive must be substantiated by state or local law before you have the right to intervene because it may well be just your opinion.
• Clear child abuse or neglect as outlined by your state government. Your opinion that something is neglectful or abusive must be substantiated by state law before you have the right to intervene because it may well be just your opinion.
The best way to teach our kids is through the example that we set. They learn far more from what we do than what we say, and they do watch what we do very closely. If we expect them to live a certain way, we must be consistently and without hypocrisy living that way ourselves. Then, if we set a good example, they may choose to adopt our philosophy and way of life for themselves. They also may choose to go their own way. The point is that it is their life and their choice, and that must always be respected.
Preparing a Lease—
Writing down the terms of a room and board arrangement eliminated all sorts of problems. My grandson learned that he would be now responsible for his own food and laundry, and that the six hours of weekly yard work were not negotiable since he was receiving a value of $500 a month in free rent & utilities. Other terms included "quiet hours" from 11pm to 7am and no overnight guests. By addressing these issues in a businesslike manner, there was no question of who was responsible for what, and how the rent would be dealt with. It solved the problem for us and is an excellent example of why a lease should be drawn up with our adult kids when they find themselves living back at home for a while.
What should be covered in the lease? From our experience, we learned that it was helpful to address these issues in our lease agreement:
• How will the chores be managed? This is one of the problems where resentment can build up in a hurry, if not addressed before an adult youngster moves back home. While moms and dads are more than happy to help their children out if financially possible, this doesn't mean the youngster gets a free pass from household chores. Yes, chores. With an extra person in the house, there are extra dishes, extra laundry, and extra stuff lying around that needs to be picked up. Asking for your youngster to help out with assigned tasks is not unreasonable and should be addressed in the lease so there is no misunderstanding.
• How will the groceries be managed? Feeding an extra mouth can also cost money, especially if that mouth belongs to an adult male with hollow legs. How we solved the problem with our grandson was to install a 6 cubit foot refrigerator freezer in his basement kitchenette. He bought his own food and left the stuff in our frig alone. With an extra adult in the house, a grocery bill can increase by 50%. Setting guidelines for how the cost of groceries will be handled should also be part of the lease.
• Who will pay the extra utility costs? Having an adult youngster living at home costs money. There's the added cost of hot water for that extra shower and extra laundry, plus the high speed DSL, cable television, or an extra phone. Extra water also means a higher sewer bill. If you can't afford the extra cost of utilities, who pays the additional cost should be part of the lease.
• Will there be rent? Our adult kids often move back home because they are trying to recover financially, and aren't in a position to pay rent or utilities. If you aren't charging your adult kids rent to help with expenses, then it is not unreasonable to ask for work in lieu of payment. Yard work, painting the house, or "whole house" cleaning on weekly bass is one way to work off the rent without having to pay cash.
If you were managing a rental property, you might have rules of occupancy which might include no illegal activities, no loud parties, no unauthorized roommate or pets, no smoking, or other activities that you find objectionable. Just because your boarder is your youngster, he doesn't get to carry on in a way that jeopardizes the quality of your life. And, just because he IS your youngster doesn't mean you have the right to invade his privacy and snoop around his room. Writing down the house rules in a lease takes out the guesswork of out what is permitted and what isn't.
While a lease isn't necessary for every situation, sitting down and discussing ground rules is an important issue that moms and dads should insist on when an adult youngster is wanting to move back home temporarily. By discussing expenses in a businesslike manner, deciding how the work will be divided, and writing it all down, a family can avoid hard feelings and misunderstandings that can lead to damaging a family relationship.
Sample Rental Contract—
When your grown-up child moves back home, it’s best to draw up a contract to outline expectations and financial agreements. Some families draw up formal paperwork, others use a rental contract simply as a guideline for discussion. Here’s a sample rental contract to get you started:
1. Cooking, laundry and chores: (Name) will mow the lawn on Saturday, grocery shop on Sunday using the family shopping list, and cook dinner on Mondays and Wednesdays. He is responsible for the purchase, laundering and maintenance of his own clothing and any personal items.
2. Guests and quiet hours: Household quiet hours run from midnight to 6 a.m., unless otherwise arranged. No overnight guests without prior arrangement.
3. Rent: Beginning with his second monthly paycheck, (name) will pay $200 (or whatever amount) a month to cover rent and food.
4. Set a time limit and a goal: This agreement runs from June 15, when (name) moves home, until (date), when he will have saved enough money to get an apartment of his own, i.e., first and last month’s rent and a security deposit.
5. Utilities: Beginning with his second monthly paycheck, (name) will pay 25% of the utilities, including water, gas, electrical and cable.
Quiz: Are You Ready for a Refilled Nest?
Depending on distance and family dynamics, a grown child's move back home can be a major undertaking. If you're pondering whether you're ready to refill that empty nest, this quiz may help. And if the answer is "no," consider that there may be other, less drastic ways to help your youngster get back on his feet.
- Are the chances of his finding satisfying full- or part-time work in your town better than where he is now?
- Do you have a good, supportive relationship with your youngster?
- Does he visit frequently and without any particular problems?
- Does he need to get his feet back on the ground after a devastating life event - a bad break-up, divorce or medical crisis?
- Does he still have close friends in your area? Depression and loneliness are, unfortunately, common problems for the Aspergers adult. His support network needs to encompass more than his wonderful parents.
- Does your youngster have specific plans - he wants to buy a house, pay off debts, go to grad school or find a job - that would be made possible by a dramatic, temporary change in his living situation?
- Does your youngster respect your privacy and your needs?
- Can he be relied on to follow mutually agreed upon rules?
- Is your home and bank account large enough to accommodate your returning youngster?
If you answered "yes" to all - or nearly all - of these questions, welcoming home a returning, grown youngster may be a great solution for your family, particularly if you talk frankly and openly about concerns, lay ground rules ahead of time and keep the channels of communication open.
A "no" answer to any of these questions is a red flag - not insurmountable, but definitely worth exploring alternative ways to help your youngster deal with his challenges, short of moving in with you.
It's necessary to set standards. This means spelling out clearly what is acceptable behavior and enforcing the consequences of inappropriate behavior. Don't be afraid to lay down rules. Moms and dads don't have to accept intolerable behavior. Make sure the youngster knows there are boundaries that can't be crossed. You are not curtailing the youngster's rights. Remember, you have rights, too.
And what about money? The key is to communicate about it. To avoid money quarrels, discuss openly who pays for what. Don't be shy about insisting that a youngster who's working contributes to the household expenses.
If the conflicts persist in spite of your efforts, most cities have family counseling services that can help moms and dads and kids work out the problems.
No matter what brought the youngster home, there comes a time when the "visit" must come to a close. It was, after all, only temporary. Be especially sensitive to when the youngster has stayed long enough. Realize why the child is at home in the first place. If moms and dads begin to feel exploited, or feel that the children are getting too comfortable, it may be time to force them to get on with acting like grown-ups.
Launching Adult Children With Aspergers: How To Promote Self-Reliance