In order to ensure a successful transition into adulthood, teens must learn the keys to independent living for autistic adults.
Since these skills are not typically taught in high school, you must take some time with your child to help them learn independent living skills outside of the classroom.
Daily living skills, also known as adaptive skills, must be practiced by individuals with autism before they reach adulthood. This can include anything from grooming skills to learning how to travel to appointments on their own, to doing laundry and preparing meals.
Parents may overlook adaptive skills in favor of academic and behavior management skills. Daily living skills are no less important than other skills, and even an autistic individual with above-average intelligence may have difficulty learning those skills on their own.
In fact, there’s even a study that shows difficulties with adaptive skills may be especially evident in autistic teens with high intelligence. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance for them to learn these skills before they transition into adulthood.
Learning Daily Living Skills
One of the most effective ways for autistic adults to learn independent living skills is to start with small tasks. Let’s look at cooking a meal, for example.
As a child, they can be taught how to gather ingredients for a meal from the fridge and kitchen cupboards. As they get older, you can have them cook meals with you. Eventually, they can practice cooking a full meal on their own from beginning to end.
Real life practice is the key to independent living for autistic adults. It cannot be assumed they will be able to learn how to imitate skills by watching others.
Setting a larger goal to work toward also helps. Something that will incorporate multiple daily living skills they have learned.
As an autistic young adult enters the later years of high school, there are many opportunities for them to practice the daily living skills they’ve learned up to that point.
Going to the mall on their own to pick out new clothes and school supplies, getting a fresh haircut, making their own lunches, joining a social group and making new friends are all different ways a young adult can practice independent living skills.
Social and Relationship Skills
In addition to learning daily living skills, it’s also important to learn how to build meaningful relationships with others. Social and relationship skills are incredibly complex for individuals with autism.
Everything from the norms and expectations of social interactions, to what it means to be in a romantic relationship, should be learned before transitioning into adulthood.
It’s also beneficial if social and independent living skills to support transition into adulthood are part of a transition IEP. Then they can be worked on at school, in the home, and in the community.
Preparing for Independent Living for Autistic Adults
Learning independent living skills means little without having the person actually perform those skills. Teaching your child how to do laundry, and then doing their laundry for them, will not adequately prepare them for independent living.
After taking time to help them learn about daily living skills, try assigning one week out of the month for your child to practice these skills when you feel they’re ready.
During this week have your child do their own laundry, cook all their own meals, get to and from places on their own, and so on. From there you can better gauge how well prepared they are for independent living.
If your child needs further assistance, which they almost surely will after their first week of independent living, they will be able to ask you for the help they need before going off to live on their own.
The key to independent living for autistic adults is helping them learn the skills before, not when, they reach adulthood. For more information please see our other resources, including: