Growing up is a tough job for everyone! But if you have an Autism Spectrum Disorder you usually need more time to adjust to the idea (it’s that difficulty with change/transition thing) and more direct teaching to learn what you have to do to live your life as independently as possible. There are no quick fixes but here are a few tips to move you forward into a positive new schedule and a healthy lifestyle once you leave the comfort of that secondary school nest.
WARNING: This information contains an attempt at humour scattered with some sarcasm!
1. Meaningful Schedules are powerful tools to get us moving in the right direction. Get to bed at a decent hour and 3:00 am is not decent. If you want to live in the land of the living you have to be awake during the day since that is when most work and post-secondary opportunities are available. Remedy - reduce video game/computer time, schedule bed and wake times daily and reward yourself for sticking to it! Get some help with this one – I know it is a tough one to break! I work with many nocturnal people who struggle to get back on track!
2. Get some outside social contacts – and I am not referring to Facebook friends and the question I have is… are they really friends?? Get involved with small groups and/or individuals with similar interests and get connected with other people outside your home on a weekly basis.
3. Learning new life skills is something that everyone has to do if they ever intend to live on their own. Here’s a few for you to learn while in the comfort of their family abode or by immersion once you move out.
- Meal planning, grocery shopping, preparation and clean- up. You can start small here with one meal a week and it doesn’t have to be fancy. (Pizza, Pasta and Grilled cheese and canned soup can sustain life but remember variety is the spice of life.)
- Laundry – the whole deal – sorting, washing, drying (yes the wrinkles do stay there until the next time you wash the shirt – if you leave it in the dryer for days!) and last but not least folding them and putting them away. Please don’t leave them in the basket and start piling your dirty clothes on top!
- Shower daily and then learn the skill of shower and bathtub cleaning. (It is hard to believe that this does not occur on its own! I think that every young adult thought there was a bathtub cleaning fairy until they moved out on their own. Why not learn the technique in the comfort of your own home under the guidance of a master - mom?)
- Public Transportation: How do you get around your town? If mom is the answer – time to learn how to use public transportation.
- Money management: Where does one begin? With money… yes but if you don’t have a job yet – start with the first point - meal planning and grocery shopping for your family. It will teach you the fine art of how much food costs and will begin the budgeting process.
4. Get involved in your community. Never underestimate the value of volunteering your time to help others. Not only does this assist the organization that you are volunteering for but it also provides real experience and builds your resume. It is a definite TWO- FOR (Two for one deal!)
5. Schedule daily exercise into your schedule. Anyone who has ever worked with me knows how much I harp about this one….( Blah, Blah, Blah….Pat!) Exercise is not an option for the individual with an ASD that continually deals with extreme anxiety. Yes - there are many other ways to combat your anxious neurological state of being but begin here. It really works!
Really the most important thing to remember is that being an adult has tons of benefits! So learn the necessary skills, get into a positive schedule and enjoy the ride!
Article written by our director and founder Patricia O'Connor
Image by Charles-Etienne Pascal