As a parent of an autistic adult child, you may spend a great deal of time preparing for and agonizing over if your child will ever be able to live independently. In our society, most young adults move out of their family of origin’s home into their own home between the ages of 18 – 30 years old. Sometimes this is because the young adult is leaving home to go away to college, sometimes it is because the young adult has a job away from the family’s home, and sometimes it is simply because it is time for the young adult to be more independent. Our society generally regards “moving out” as developmentally appropriate; however, you may wonder if your autistic child will ever be ready for this rite of passage. (It is also important to note that some families choose to live together in multi-generational home settings.)
Start by thinking about the “new” skills young adults need to live on their own:
- Managing money to pay the bills, rent, utilities, food, etc.
- Managing their lives to know when to go to bed and when to wake up so as not be late for work or school.
- Eating right, creating a shopping list, purchasing food, preparing dinner, ordering take-out.
- Remembering to take medications and maintaining health and hygiene.
- Getting to appointments, work, stores, social engagements, etc.
- Attending to the not fun chores of cleaning the house, washing and folding the laundry, etc……
All of this and more is necessary for independent living.
Some autistic individuals are completely capable of living on their own; others will learn through experience, and still others will need to be taught specific life skills tasks before being able to live on their own. Some individuals will always need some help and will never be completely independent. There are community supports to assist autistic individuals, which can provide supplementary services, although they often are not easily available. Please see the article on waivers and public supports elsewhere in the CAR Autism Roadmap™ to learn more about this.
Being able to afford to live away from home is a challenge for most young adults. What if your child does not have a job and cannot afford to live independently? Portions of public benefits (such as Supplemental Security Income — SSI, or Social Security Disability Insurance — SSDI) can be used for housing, but you or your child will likely need to find a way to supplement these dollars. Agencies in your community can help you determine what supports are needed and help access these services.
If your child does not have the life skills to live on his or her own, work gradually to build one skill at a time. If your child desires to move out before all necessary skills are mastered, consider having support staff come into your child’s home to help with just those things that your child cannot manage independently, such as managing finances, cleaning, or getting out the door in the morning.
If your child has always lived with you at home, he or she may be used to having other people around to talk to. If your child is considering moving out, make sure he or she has social opportunities so that he or she does not feel isolated. Rather than living totally alone, ask your child to consider a roommate or a group home. In addition to providing social connection, these options can help reduce the financial cost of living independently. If needed, roommates can share support staff, or a “roommate” may even be a support person who is there to assist when necessary.
Informal groups of parents form as they begin to anticipate their children’s needs. Sometimes these are parents of children who have been in the same special education class at school. Sometimes they are neighbors, and most times they are subgroups of parent organizations that have brainstormed together throughout the years. There are at least as many creative possible solutions as there are groups of concerned family members to talk about housing options!
- Independent Living: Are You Ready?
- Where to Live? The Options for Adults with ASD
- Functional Skills
- IEP Requirements Related to Transition to Adulthood
- Bureau of Autism Services Programs for Adults in Pennsylvania
- Qualifying for Supplemental Security Income as an Adult with ASD
- Social Security Disability Insurance for Adults with Disabilities
- Turning 18: Options For When Your Child Needs Decision-Making Help