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Becoming an independent adult with ASD involves a large skill set that needs to be planned out over the lifetime of your child. I recently posted an article on establishing clear guidelines around sexuality early on. Money management is no different. Being able to pay for items and stick to a budget is a barrier to successful independence. Many people – even those without autism- can’t manage finances or handle money responsibly, directly impacting their quality of life, and ability to live on their own.
A recent study, “Financial Capabilities Among Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder,” was conducted through the University of Missouri and was intended to shed light on exactly this issue. The study was conducted by interviewing youth with ASD between 16-25, and found that most individuals not only recognized that financial understanding was an essential part of being independent adults, but also felt very frustrated with their money management skill-set, or lack thereof.
While most of the early years for children with autism are spent in all kinds of therapy and lessons, most of those are around verbal or reading literacy, and normalizing behaviours. For most children, no time is spent at all learning about money.
“Despite the importance of financial autonomy and the increased independence that comes from understanding money, financial management and decision-making often are seen as outside the purview of professionals working with young people with autism,” said Clark Peters, co-author of the study and associate professor in the MU School of Social Work. “Educational programs that include financial literacy in both schools and independent living programs could increase autonomy and quality of life for people with autism.”
As with learning anything when you have ASD the more ingrained it becomes at an early age, the better. It would be excellent if educational institutions recognized the importance of financial planning and incorporated it into early education programs. Until then, parents can help by addressing money as early as possible, just like any of the other life skills you want to help your child develop.
Regions Bank in the United States recently announced its intention to make its 1500 branches autism friendly. Along with employee training, each branch will have a designated quiet area and sensory bags with items meant to help those feeling overwhelmed. There’s a green stress ball and earbuds to help block out sound. Hopefully more banks in Canada and globally will adopt these kinds of measures, but in the meantime here are some things you can do to help your child improve their money management skills.
If you have a quick errand to run, this can be a good time to start allowing your child to pay for small grocery amounts.
Tip for success: make sure it is a store the child knows and feels comfortable in, preferably with a cashier that your child has already met. Choose a time when the store isn’t busy so that neither your child or other shoppers get frustrated.
While there is some controversy around whether or not your child should be “paid” for chores, most sources agree that giving your child a weekly allowance allows them to earn their own money and begins the idea of savings and budgeting. The key here is to enable your child to come up with a “dream buy”, and then help them save for that item or experience.
Tip for success: try not to judge or influence your child’s choice of item that they want to save for. It doesn’t need to be practical or what you would like. The key here is to give them the inspiration to WANT to save, and then teach them the process of how to do it.
Many banks have free accounts, or special accounts, for children. Helping your child set up an account at a young age allows them lots of time to become accustomed to how a bank account works. Even though many of us bank online, it’s a good idea is to start taking your child at a young age to the bank in person. Get the used to the building, process, and even the individual tellers.
Tip for success: choose banking times or hours when there aren’t many people in there. You can call the bank to find out when that might be. If your child has a favourite teller, ask if you can come in during that time.
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