My Aspergers son just turned 23 and has little prospects of employment due to the way he views the world. How can I help him to develop some life-skills in general – and self-reliance in particular?
Information needed by parents of kids with Aspergers (high functioning autism) is quite different from the information needed by parents of adult children with Aspergers. Kids are being diagnosed younger and are offered therapies and treatments that may not have been available for your son.
The Aspergers condition in adults is relatively complicated. Aspergers can interfere in every area of life (e.g., job or career opportunities, relationships, basic daily living skills, etc.). "Aspies" are very intelligent, but they do struggle with a multitude of issues (e.g., social communication, inflexible thinking, sensory integration problems, poor motor skills, and so on). Without medical, emotional, and educational treatments, adulthood can prove to be awkward, complicated, and extremely lonely.
Psychological, neurological, and medical treatments are very useful for all Aspergers adults. These professionals can test for underlying problems and treat them in addition to the Aspergers disorder itself. Common treatment plans include:
- Social skills training to help create and sustain relationships
- Sensory integration therapy to lessen the effects of hyper or hypo-sensitivities
- Self-care skills to learn the importance of regular medical check-ups and personal hygiene
- Medication for seizure activity, anxiety, depression, and hyperactivity
- Daily living skills to learn how to live independently with success
- Cognitive behavioral therapy to deal with emotions, feelings, and behavior
You may also want to get some books and videos that focus on Aspergers in adulthood at your local public library or bookstore. Many of these books are written specifically to parents, while others are written directly to the Aspie himself.
Click here for an eBook that addresses the issue of Aspergers adults who fail to launch.
I am both angry and sad as it may be that Matthew has Aspergers syndrome. This is Matthews' story. Matthew was a spirited little boy, "he is just being a boy" is what my husband and others would say when Matthew would do things mischievously. Matthew got good grades in elementary school but had some difficulty with attention. He played football, wrestled and loved lacrosse, although never a standout and he did at times have trouble following coach’s cues. He reached middle school and started being identified by teachers as having a behavioral problem.
For years I asked the school to help. We were told he had behavior disorder, ODD, ADHD etc. Although the teachers said he was very bright and had a high IQ, he was lazy and un-motivated. I asked the school to test him and be seen by the school psychologist. He scored 131 on IQ testing and did not qualify for an IEP. Nothing would be done. The school felt that we as parents were responsible for his behaviors. We needed to be stricter. Matthew has a photographic memory, remembers everything he is told and can recite word for word anything he hears in a movie and remembers details of things that no-one could pick up. He received 100% on tests in school but zeros on homework, so consequently most of the time his grades were "D's and "F's".
When Matthew got to the 9th grade this is when his life fell apart. Matthew followed the wrong crowd and finally brought alcohol into school because someone asked him too. We didn't know our rights at the time and took the suggestion that he attend alternative school. Things went from bad to worse. The first day of testing for intake at the alternative school the police came to our house and Matthew was taken away for the break in of our neighbors home ( directly across the street). He did this on the day he was home from school waiting for his intake at the new school. He admitted to the break in and said his "friends, wanted him to do it because they wanted an IPOD and a game". Matthew revived his first Juvenile felony at the age of 14 years old. Again, within a few weeks time, he took his newly prescribed Adderal to school because some kids asked him too. Of course he was caught.
Needless to say between the ages of 14 to 15 my son ended up with 2 juvenile felony charges and a misdemeanor charge. He was sent to a military style school (Canyon State Academy in Queen Creek Arizona) for 18 months for breaking probation. He did very well there, structure, motivation etc. Then he came home. From the time he has been home 2009 till now 2012, he has had 5 jobs (never fired , quit) tried to attend community college( gets overwhelmed and has trouble following multiple syllabus') and has failed his drivers course driving exam 5 times as he gets so upset he cannot parallel park. Consequently he lives in our basement and plays video games all day. We are at our wits end. My husband and I have almost separated as this has become the focus of our lives and we constantly blame each other. Up and down and all around are our emotions. Is he depressed, lazy, psychotic? What have we done or not done? We blame each other.
We have three other daughters that are all doing well. 1 that has graduated from Rutgers University and is married, another getting ready to graduate from Rutgers and a stand-out 14 yr old daughter that is doing OK in high school and is on a highly ranked soccer team. Unfortunately we do the others a disservice as all of our attention goes to Matthew. In the last year it has become apparent to me that there is more wrong than just ADD and conduct disorder. He has never been formally diagnosed with a conduct disorder as a matter of fact Matthew had seen many Psychologist that felt he was a great kid just fell into peer pressure and was a follower.
Many people, including his older sister suggested Aspergers and his former Principle (can you believe this!) thinks Matthew has Aspergers. The more I read the more I am astounded that he is EVERYTHING that you described. I mentioned this to him and he said "no, no, no! I am not an Aspie" He doesn't want to hear it. Matthew is 20 now. How can we get him diagnosed in our area? Do you know anyone? I mean, his dad and I will read your material but I know as a medical professional (RN Nurse Manager) if we get a diagnosis then maybe Matthew will be able to have help for college or trade school. The community college that he attended and quit said that if he is diagnosed then he would qualify for their special services for tutoring and 1:1 help. Do you have a program or a summer camp like that of an "outward bound" to help his self esteem? I realize this is long and has taken a lot of your time but we love our son and want to help him-even if it is for him to understand.