Living independently is a huge step for any young adult who is moving out of their parents’ home. For young adults with autism or other learning differences, independent living is possible, but it’s important to make sure they are well prepared for the challenges of living on their own. If you’re the parent of a teen or young adult who is ready for more independence, keep reading to learn more about the most important autism life skills that can help them thrive.
The term “self-care” may conjure images of spa days and manicures, the truth is that a lot of effort goes into keeping ourselves happy and healthy. Without the right preparation, it’s easy for newly independent young adults to develop detrimental habits.
Food Shopping and Preparation
Anyone with a family knows that planning meals and grocery shopping are big tasks that must be done on a regular basis, but our children don’t always understand just how much work it takes. Before venturing out on their own, young adults should learn how to prepare a handful of nutritious meals for themselves as well as how to shop for groceries and store food safely so that it does not go to waste.
Young adults with learning differences may need help not only planning meals and making grocery lists, but also remembering to eat when they are busy or under stress. Learning to set reminders to eat at regular intervals, even if they are not hungry, is one habit that can help them stay fed and feel good.
Regular physical activity in the form of organized sports, exercise at a gym, or even a brisk walk is essential to our well-being as humans. Young adults making the move to living on their own need to learn how to engage in physical activities they enjoy and how to make time for those activities each day as a source of stress relief as well as general health promotion.
The excitement of living independently can make it difficult to remember even the most basic habits, like regular bathing, brushing teeth, and combing hair. Successful independent living means being able to take care of your body with regular basic hygiene as well as keeping hygiene items in stock like soap and toothpaste.
Many kids and teenagers are used to their parents cleaning up after them, which makes the transition challenging when there is no one around to do the dishes or make sure they have a clean shirt to wear in the morning. Good cleaning habits are essential for young adults living independently.
Wearing clean clothes is another important part of basic hygiene, but many young adults don’t have a lot of experience doing their own laundry. On their own, they will need to recognize when clothes are dirty and learn how to treat stains, sort clothes, wash, dry, and fold them.
In some cases, doing the laundry may also require traveling to a laundromat safely and knowing how to operate the machines with or without assistance.
Many young adults who are living on their own for the first time may not keep their homes as clean as their parents would like, but they can still maintain a healthy living environment by knowing how to buy and use cleaning products. Independent young adults should know how to clean a bathroom, mop a floor, take out the trash, and dust surfaces on a regular basis.
Life management is perhaps the broadest category of autism independent living skills needed for young adults to move out on their own. For adults who are experienced in the world, it’s easy to forget how overwhelming it was to be living on your own for the first time. Living independently means keeping track and taking care of a virtually endless list of tasks to stay safe and healthy, including receiving regular medical care, managing money, and getting places on time.
To live independently, young adults should know how to make their own medical and dental appointments. Many doctors and dentists now schedule appointments via the internet, which can be helpful for those who are wary of making phone calls. For acute care, telehealth can also be a useful option in some cases.
Although some families find it awkward or uncomfortable to talk about money, teaching young adults about money management before they go out into the world and have to manage their own finances is hugely important. Independent adults need to know how to budget for their needs before their wants, while also attempting to save for the future.
Whether someone with autism chooses to attend college or opts for a career training program like the Transitions Certificate of Completion in Career and Life, knowing how to get around on your own is a critical life skill. Driving a car may be an option, but in urban areas, public transit and rideshare services can be convenient alternatives when driving is not an option. Learning to choose the right service, navigate routes, and get to places on time are all important skills to practice and master.
Developing social skills is a bit more nebulous than learning to ride a city bus, but these skills are equally important for a young adult living independently. Not only should young adults practice reading social cues and speaking with peers, but it’s also a good idea to model the importance of setting healthy boundaries and self-advocacy in social relationships. Being among like-minded individuals in a residential program like those at Transitions can be very helpful for practicing good social skills.
Even if you think your child has a good handle on most of the daily living skills autism requires of them, more practice can always help. Transitions offers a residential program to allow young adults with autism to practice living independently with lots of surrounding support, including peer mentors, during this big transition. Our core transition program is designed specifically for young adults who are ready to experience life as an adult and learn career or college skills along with independent living.