Sooner or later your kids will become adults. It goes by in the blink of an eye!
It’s never to early to teach your kids the life skills they need later in life.
Especially when it comes to kids with autism. It might take extra preparation and practice to get them to grasp the necessary life skills. Start now and give them the foundation they need for when they grow up.
I’ll help you get started with the things you need to teach the life skills your children must have!
What Happens After High School?
You might wonder what your child will do when they complete high school. Adults with autism are a hot topic right now. There are many great programs geared towards kids on the spectrum, but not enough for young adults.
Even kids with autism grow up. Luckily therapy clinics, schools, and social services recognize that. They are starting to put together programs for young adults. Some focus on job skills and independent living. Others work on making friends and activities.
What your child will do greatly varies. Much of it depends on their level of functioning.
I work with a family with twin teenage boys with ASD. One has Aspergers, the other is nonverbal. The one boy has plans on going to college and will do well. His brother will probably attend a program through the school district until he is 21. He will learn life skills and get job training. Either direction they take will be perfect for them.
The key take-away for thinking about what happens after high school is to point your child in the direction that is best for them. Give them the life skills and support they need so they will thrive and be happy!
The transition from high school to young adulthood can be overwhelming. Whether kids go off to college or get job training, it can be hard for kids to learn about cooking, money management or finding friends.
Work with your kids now, while you have them under your wing so that they will succeed in learning life skills.
Must-Have Life Skills For Kids With Autism
Here is a list of must-have life skills I highly recommend. They are life skills kids can do now and will continue to do as adults. I worked on these things with my clients over the years and will share tips on how to teach these life skills to your kids.
Follow A Routine
You probably have your kids on a routine. You show them the order of events and they follow it.
But do they know you to make a routine for themselves? This life skill is essential for them to get through their day as an adult.
To teach them how to make a routine for themselves by:
- Pick a small routine for them to set up, like bed time routine.
- Talk to them about the steps they do to get ready for bed.
- Write out the tasks either in list form or with pictures.
- Let them put the tasks in the order they prefer. It’s their routine after all.
Kids always love having things done for them, but sooner or later they need to learn responsibility and complete chores.
Whether your kids will end up living on their own, in a group home or with you, completing household chores is a must-have life skill! Kids at any level of functioning can learn to complete a chore.
I worked with a child who was fully blind and taught him how to empty the dishwasher, set the table and put groceries away! We showed him the arrangement of the kitchen, then taught him the steps for each chore. With practice he mastered everything!
To teach them how to complete chores try:
- Pick one doable chore, like setting the table.
- Show the steps of the chore, like first plates, then napkins, etc.
- Have your child work on getting good with one chore before showing them a new one.
- Use visuals or cue cards to look at if needed.
- As your child learns a couple of chores you can create a chore chart for them to follow and earn an allowance…which brings us to the next life-skill.
Basic money skills are something adults should have yet many struggle with. While setting a budget and paying bills might be advanced for kids, teaching them how to earn and handle money is something they can do now. Here are some tips for teaching basic money handling life skills.
- Teach them the values of money with either real coins or play money.
- Play coin sorting game with little bowls to sort different coins.
- Give them opportunities to earn and allowance.
- Set up pretend play scenarios and play shopping/store to learn how to buy items with the money they have and make change.
- While at the store try-out the same money handling skills practiced at home.
- Teach them simple budget skills by dividing their money into categories like savings, fun spending money, money for lunch.
Learning how to cook is a valuable life skill. Of course, kids don’t have to learn how to make gourmet meals (unless that’s a hobby of theirs.) Kids can learn their way around the kitchen by making easy snacks and meals. Here are some ideas to help your kids learn how to cook later in life:
- Let them get simple meals for themselves like pouring a bowl of cereal or making toast.
- Packing lunch and making after school snacks is a great intro to making meals.
- Involve kids with picking out meals and make a grocery shopping list.
- Let them help with easy tasks, like pouring pre-measured ingredients into the bowl.
- If you want to teach them how to cut food you can get a plastic knife set that cuts food without the worry of getting hurt.
- Use visuals as needed like a recipe card to help them follow steps.
Shopping is a big part of grown-up life. Some shopping is fun, some of it isn’t, but it’s a good life skill to have. Kids can learn basic skills with you when you run errands. Here are some ways you can help them learn how to shop:
- Make a shopping list together. Teaching them to prepare for the shopping trip so they know what to get when they arrive at the store is a lifesaver.
- Let your child get items off the list at the store. Show them how to find things and reach for it off the shelf.
- Practice asking for help when you need a sales associate’s assistance.
- Talk about different reasons for shopping like replacing items, buying food, getting new things when they wear out.
These must-have life skills will greatly set your child up for adulthood. When they reach the age to do more things on their own they will have you to thank. Your kids will be capable to do the things adults have to handle because they had time to practice life skills.
Elizabeth Purpero is a licensed school counselor and licensed professional counselor-in-training. She has her master’s in counseling psychology. Elizabeth has worked as an autism therapist with children and teens. During her career, she has worked in intensive at-home therapy programs utilizing ABA and play therapy along with OT and speech therapy techniques. She has also worked as a mental health therapist helping clients address their mental health issues as it relates to autism. Elizabeth’s background working with the autism community has greatly helped her work with students in schools too. She has helped teachers implement effective strategies, create goals for IEP’s and make classrooms more sensory-friendly. Mark Twain once said, “Write what you know about,” and Elizabeth enjoys writing about autism-related topics and providing additional resources to help those impacted by autism.