HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Preparing Your Aspergers Teen for Adulthood

Very few young adults with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are ready for “full independent” living. They need ongoing support, social skills training, and encouragement from parents as they learn to negotiate the “adult world.”

Adolescents with Aspergers and HFA need extra time to gradually learn and practice adult life skills (e.g., finding a job, managing finances, doing laundry, preparing meals, driving a car, arranging medical appointments, etc.). Many of these individuals may not be ready for adult responsibilities at the same age as their neurotypical peers. They may choose to live at home and attend a local community college rather than go to a university where they would need to live on campus. Many have even experienced sudden drops in their grades as graduation approached, due to fears about having to leave home before they feel ready. Some may need to experiment with alternatives and adjustments for skills (e.g., driving a car) that are not within their reach.

With some special challenges in mind, here are a few parenting tips for promoting self-reliance in your older teens with Aspergers and HFA:

1. Base your support and expectations on your teenager's abilities, level of emotional security, and history—and not on his chronological age or what his peers are doing.

2. By the time an Aspergers adolescent is working and making an income, he should assume responsibility for all cell phone charges. This cuts down on extravagant cell phone use, because most adolescents are more prudent about usage when they have to pay the bill.

3. By the time Aspergers kids are in the 8th grade, they should be taking responsibility for their own schoolwork. Moms and dads should not hound their child to complete work. Obviously, instilling a good work ethic regarding schoolwork starts much earlier than middle school. But by the 8th grade, young people should “own” the quality and timeliness of their work so they understand cause and effect before they enter high school, where a poor grade can affect college prospects.

4. Check with your adolescent's school about any transition services the district may provide.

5. Consider finding a job coach for your Aspergers teen. The benefits of having a job coach include the following:
  • A job coach can identify specific strategies and techniques that can help your Aspergers teen learn new tasks or adapt to new schedules.
  • A job coach can serve as a “liaison” between the employer and the employee.   This can help ensure that the employer’s needs are met while advocating for the employee by addressing any concerns of the employee in a manner that is pro-active.
  • Assessing the need for “on the job” accommodations is a fundamental responsibility of a job coach.  In most instances, the job coach can provide information on the procurement of the accommodation as well.
  • Coping skills can be developed or enhanced with the assistance of a job coach.  The job coach’s knowledge of your teen’s strengths and preferences can prove invaluable in determining how specific skills (e.g., relaxation techniques, journaling, role-playing of solutions and responses geared toward specific situations and scenarios, etc.) can be enhanced.

6. Do not rescue your Aspie by paying off her debts or by making excuses to her teacher for a failing grade. Let her feel the consequences, and the lesson will be long lasting.

7. Explain in great detail how you will help your Aspergers adolescent move into adult life. He needs to know how long he can live at home and whether or not you will help him with his first apartment rental, pay college tuition, keep him on the family health insurance, and so on.

8. Explore substitutes or assistance for skills that are not manageable. Your family is the best judge of when your adolescent is ready to partially or fully manage adult tasks.

9. Let your Aspergers teen make mistakes. Moms and dads naturally want to rescue their special needs children. Avoid doing that unless it’s a matter of your adolescent’s health or safety. Otherwise, simply say, “Okay, you made a mistake. It happens to everyone. What can you do to fix it?”

10. Let your teenage Aspie make decisions. At this age, she should have some say in nearly everything that affects her. Trust her in this way. She will be more likely to bend your way when you make clear that an issue is very important to you.

11. Provide ongoing emotional and tangible support even after your young Aspergers adult moves out of your home. Moms and dads who visit frequently, assist with household management, help to fill out tax forms, etc., help these youth not feel too overwhelmed as they adjust to life away from the family.

12. Purchasing a car can be the single most rewarding effort an adolescent makes other than good grades and a decent job. The sense of accomplishment an adolescent feels when she saves money for a vehicle is only trumped by the first purchase of a house. Moms and dads should not deprive their Aspie of this milestone by buying a car for her. Saving for a car (preferably the entire time she has her permit) will teach her the value of setting a goal and achieving it by herself and give her a shot of confidence. Aspergers adolescents should also pay for their own insurance – either their own policy or as a rider on their parents' policy.

13. Remember that teens with Aspergers and HFA take longer to mature than their neurotypical peers. During those 16-18 years, moms and dads are responsible for teaching their teens how to survive in the adult world. Developing good money habits and taking responsibility for their own financial well-being is best achieved by these adolescents before they truly have to manage on their own so that their transition to adulthood has fewer speed bumps and considerably less heartache.

14. Skip the power struggles. Instead of trying to control your Aspergers adolescent (e.g., “Get upstairs and do that homework now”), place the control on yourself (e.g., “I’ll be happy to drive you to the mall after you do your homework”).

15. Teach your Aspie how to balance a checkbook and budget her money. It's important that she learns by trial and error before she turns 18 and starts making choices as a grown-up. In an era of easy credit and payment plans, the temptation to spend more than they earn hits younger target markets every year, and it is never too early to teach adolescents how to resist those offers. Your adolescent should open a checking account as soon as she starts working (even if she is only babysitting) and should be saving 10% of her earnings.

16. Teens with Aspergers and HFA should begin to think about viable employment by at least the 10th grade. Experience working with others and handling workplace conflicts is critical to developing the work ethic and job skills they need when they enter the adult workplace. Many part-time jobs can be secured by working as an unpaid intern first. Summer camp programs, park and recreation departments, landscaping companies, and recreation businesses will often use free labor, and volunteering opens the door to an eventual paid position. By the time Aspergers teens are 15, they should be working part-time in preparation for life beyond school, when they will have to juggle work and family responsibilities. Colleges like to see regular student employment on their applications because it shows dedication, responsibility, and maturity!

17. The next time you talk to your Aspergers adolescent about an issue, help her to reason on how her choices reflect on her. For example, instead of criticizing her friends, say: “What if your friend got arrested for breaking the law? How would that make you look?” Help your adolescent to see how her choices either enhance her reputation or tarnish it.

18. Under Federal law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), by the time a “special education” child reaches age 16, the school is to provide a plan that may include help obtaining further education, getting a job, or living independently. Moms and dads need to advocate for these services. Communicate respectfully, clearly, and often with your school's "transition coordinator" about your teenager's transition plan.

19. When an issue arises, try reversing roles. Ask your Aspergers adolescent what advice she would give you if you were her teenager. Have her do research to come up with reasons to support—or challenge—her thinking. Discuss the matter again within a week.

20. Write down one or two areas in which you could extend a little more freedom to your Aspergers adolescent. Explain to her that you are extending this freedom on a trial basis. If she handles it responsibly, in time she can be granted more. If she does not do so, the freedoms she has been granted will be curtailed.

Launching young men and women with special needs from the family home brings some unique challenges. "Interdependence" rather than "independence" is a more fitting goal for these youth as they venture into the adult world.

Launching Adult Children With Aspergers: How To Promote Self-Reliance

2 comments:

Sarah said...

My son is only 9 and in the 3rd grade. He is HFA with combo type ADHD and I am worried about his high school years and then what happens after high school. I enjoy reading these articles and hope they will help me help him understand why going to school is so important.

foolio said...

Good advice even for my other teen! Thank you.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually. Thus, the best treatment for Aspergers children and teens is, without a doubt, “social skills training.”

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes. The hardest part is you feel like you’ll never actually get to know your child and how he/she views the world.

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