It is very common for parents to approach me to speak of the type of education their child diagnosed with autism is receiving from their school. It is also very common parents with older children highlight that even though their child has received an acceptable to good academic education, they are worried if their child is ready to face what lies beyond their school's walls. They don't feel that the school has done enough to prepare them for an independent and successful vocational and social life. They don't feel like the school has taught them the skills they need to live and manage their life independently. And the unfortunate truth is, most of the time they are right. Some studies have shown that up to 55% of young adults on the autism spectrum are not working. This shows us that the time they spend in school in indeed not preparing them for life after their high school education ends.
The truth is that parents can only count on one entity to prepare their child for life after high school, themselves.
Although many schools now have a stronger or more in-depth vocational and life skills programs than they have had in the past, the majority of work needs to take place in the home. It may seem like a daunting task, but there are plenty of small things you can do with your child that will set them up for a more independent future. Below are a few tips broken down into the areas that they will prepare your child for:
- have your child responsible for household "jobs"
- teach problem solving and help-seeking skills
- help to build a tolerance for delay in reinforcement
- help to foster age-appropriate interests
- foster interest areas that will allow your child to become part of a larger community (religious organizations, social organizations, athletic organizations, etc.)
- help to build high self-esteem in your child
- teach them how to alter their mood when they are feeling upset or down
- help them to develop close friendships and relationships with others
- foster age-appropriate and varied interests
- expose your child to a wide range of activities
- take your child into the community as often as possible
- constantly give your child choices
- give your child responsibilities
- allow your child to make mistakes
- foster an understanding of why independence should be their goal
All of these small tasks, when put together, will set the foundation that will continue to be built upon as they age. Start early and do the above tasks often. If you have any suggestions of things that you have done with your child that has lead to them being more independent as they got older, please share with us in the comment section below. Again, the unfortunate truth is that the one person you can really count on to prepare your child for an independent future is you.
Until next time,