On October 19, Dr. Dana Reinecke presented “10 Things to Know Before You Leave Home (And How to Learn Them)” at Transitions’ “Strategies to Build Independence for Students with Autism, ADHD and Other Learning Differences” conference. Her presentation covered basic skills that are more challenging for young adults with autism and other learning differences and strategies their support network can use to prepare them to perform those essential tasks on their own. We would like to share what we learned from Dr. Reinecke in this series of posts.
Dr. Reinecke considers being able to amuse themselves with age-appropriate activities and interests one of the most important skills a young adult must have when they live on their own. People are often judged by the things they enjoy, especially if they are fixated on something age-inappropriate to a degree that it bleeds into their public life. Young adults should be able to enjoy a few hours of downtime, engaging in an appropriate leisure activity for a specified period of time and choosing an appropriate activity from available options. People should have at least three low-cost things they like to do when not working, studying or doing chores. These things shouldn’t cost a lot of money and should enrich them and/or enhance social prospects.
It can be difficult to convince a young adult on the autism spectrum to try new activities or phase out a particularly strong age-inappropriate interest. Exposure is as simple as presenting the person with a new thing and saying, “try it, you might like it.” It often takes multiple exposures to get a person interested in a new activity, so don’t give up after a few unsuccessful tries.
Simple exposure – this involves just having new things available to the person, whether they are pushed to try them or not.
Pairing – when the new activity is done alongside something the person already likes.
Generalization – the idea that once a person develops one new interest, that interest can usually be expanded to other areas as well.
Objective 1: Choose an activity
Expose the individual to activities they can choose to engage in. Activities should be available, reasonable and cost-effective. They can stem from interests in certain topics (such as pop culture, sports and art) into things a person can do in their free time and with others (such as reading, collecting and active engagement).
Objective 2: Engage in an activity
Generally, engaging in an activity can stem from prior exposure to the activity. For example, liking sports can lead to collecting sports paraphernalia, going to games and discussing sports with peers.
We hope these tips and strategies are helpful to you. Please remember that these are generalized examples and all goals, objectives, teachings and support strategies should always be individualized to see beneficial results. Feel free to mix and max strategies discussed in each post to fit the person you’re teaching. Everyone learns differently, so being flexible and working from individual strengths is absolutely essential in teaching these skills.
Good luck and check this blog again on Wednesday for the next installment in this series.