Developing independence

When our high-functioning ASD son was 16, we realized that we needed to begin to support him for adulthood and needed to provide him opporunities for independence. Given that our home was tucked back on a private road shared by 7 homes, we were comfortable with his being alone for short periods of time (up to one hour). Our goal for our son since he was about 14 was to help him develop living and vocational skills towards his future indepenence.

We had to accept that damage could occur to the space we provided access too. We were not comfortable allowing him in the home with the kitchen accessible to him. This was specifically because he is fascinated by fire. So, we gave him access to a detached structure and placed a lock box with key on the door. We permitted him to set the combination so he would not forget it. Well, given his obsessions with James Bond and Indiana Jones, he quickly selected one that related specifically to these characters. We posted the rules in the space which included not leaving the space and not touching the TV equipment. We kept a few of his personal items in the space including his own DVD player so that we could manage what he fiddled with. That way, if something got broken, it was not something big. Then we began giving him the option to stay for short periods if we needed to run and errand. We never left any siblings with him. Lastly, he had a phone and our numbers were posted in the space.

Now, he is almost 19 and I would say given his opportunities to be responsible and accountable, he is one of the most responsible young ASD adults in his current program. He has been doing chores since he was about 10 as well. While he will always require living support, we have provided him with the best opporunities we could. I would encourage other parents to find opportunities when possible to allow your ASD child to participate in chores. Initially, this can be very frustrating as constant prompts may be necessary. The first and 20th time Matt emptied the dishwasher, he repeatedly managed it incorrectly. However, with each chore, after between 2 months and two years, he got the efforts down well. As a result, he also taught us incredible patience as we had to support the learning time this required.