Preparing for Adult Life with Autism

Most parents don’t like to think about what adult life will look like for their child with autism. It’s too daunting and overwhelming, but long-term planning is essential for the best possible outcome. Once a child leaves school, you have to find other programs and supports in the community to ensure a meaningful day and that takes time. Waiting lists can long or few spaces available in good programs.

Author, autism advocate and parent Chantal Sicile-Kira wrote an excellent blog post about planning for the future. Her book, A Full Life with Autism, is a guide for helping our children lead meaningful and independent lives as they reach adulthood. Sicile-Kira says, “If there is anything you’ve learned as a parent of a child with autism, it’s that you can’t just leave it up to the system to figure it out. You have to be involved.” Even if your child is eligible for services, that doesn’t mean he/she will get the services. You will have to explore all options and get on waiting lists as early as possible.

Provide many different experiences throughout the teen years to see what motivates and interests an individual. This can range from volunteering, taking courses in the community, gardening, caring for pets, attending concerts and plays, participating in sports, art classes, and the list goes on. Without this exposure, we may never know what will motivate our child on the spectrum. They will not always ask about what they may be interested in or like so many teens, they aren’t sure.

Not sure where to look for things to do? Check out the bulletin board at your local library, read your community newsletter, check the events listing at a college or university, pick up a church bulletin, read a Friday/weekend edition of a newspaper that lists what’s on in your city/town, talk to other parents, join a support group, be active on Facebook.

Some of the things we have done with our son and daughter: horseback riding, going to cat shows, dance recitals, musical concerts, plays, weekly trips to the library, curling, swimming, bowling, volunteering at the Farmer’s Market, attending figure skating competitions, a photography course, day trips, films, and eating out in restaurants. Because of these experiences, my daughter knows that she wants to work with cats for a living and my son would like a job at the public library.

If you are looking for more concrete planning and guidance on the journey to adulthood, check out Essentials of Transition Planning or Guiding Your Teenager with Special Needs Through the Transition from School to Adult Life.

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