As your child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) approaches adulthood, they may want to and need to be more independent in making personal decisions and independently explore their options in the community. It is beneficial to discuss with your child what areas of their life they would like to have more independence in to help you guide them with developing skills in the area.
It is also important to understand the concept of independent living. To live independently does not mean that a person must live alone. Independent living it is when an individual has control over certain areas, or all aspects of his or her life. In addition, living independently doesn’t mean that you no longer can receive help from family, friends, or social supports. For example, living independently could mean that an individual has control over their health decisions, financial banking, daily routine and schedule, making meals, driving or deciding they want to move out of their parent’s home.
Teaching your child independent living skills is extremely important for safety and overall quality of life. Individuals with ASD will vary in their intellectual and developmental stages, which results in some people being able to have more independence than others. As a parent, it is important to monitor your child’s developmental stages and to be aware of opportunities that allow them to make independent choices throughout their development.
Independent Living Skills
There are many skills that individuals with ASD should learn to live more independent lives. Here are some skills to consider learning or teaching individuals with ASD to increase their independence:
- Daily personal health skills: These are skills that a person uses on a daily basis to live a healthy life. For example: personal hygiene, eating healthy, sleeping, or taking medications.
- Daily living skills: These are skills that a person will need to have to do day-to-day activities. For example: making meals, setting an alarm, cleaning up messes, doing laundry, or housework.
- Safety skills: These are skills that a person should have in order to be safe when alone at home or out in the community. Visit out “Safety for Adults” page HERE to learn more.
- Social Skills: These are skills that a person will have to have if coming into contact with other people. For example: saying hello to others, working with others, speaking on the phone with others, etc.
- Financial management skills: If a person wants to manage their own money, they will have to learn money management skills. For example: paying bills, using an ATM, budgeting, saving money and spending money.
There are many resources online, in books and through the education system that can help all children, youth and adults learn independent living skills, especially those with disabilities. Speak to your son or daughter’s resource teacher to learn more about how to prioritize areas for development and the kinds of curriculum that may be available to help. You might consider having your son or daughter assessed for their adaptive skills profile. This can highlight areas where they struggle to understand or function in their day to day lives as well as let you and your child know where they do well.
Once you have an idea of target areas for development or compensation (using their capacities to overcome areas where they struggle) you and your child can work with resources available to them at school or in the community, to plan next steps. This may include taking a math course in high school that focuses on budgeting, understanding how to file taxes, etc., or participating in the Saving Circle program, run through the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities and SEED Winnipeg Inc., to learn how to set financial goals and save money for them.
There are also courses available in high school that teach career development skills and this may be of interest. Below are resources where you can learn more about high school curriculum options and programs:
- My Child In School: resource for parents who have children in Manitoba schools.
- Career Development: series of high school courses in Manitoba that prepare students for future careers.
- Student services/Special Education for those with special needs in Manitoba schools.
- Saving Circle Program – SEED Winnipeg
Independence Skills Programs available in Manitoba
There are programs and services available in Manitoba that can help youth and adults with ASD gain or increase their independent living skills. Below are the independent living programs that are available in Manitoba for individuals with a disability. This is not an exhaustive list but will provide you with some information to help you as you explore this area with your son or daughter.
Autism Specific Organizations
Manitoba ASD support organizations may offer programs to individuals with ASD that teach independent living skills. Search our database by clicking HERE to learn about these organizations and the programs and services they offer.
Gaining Resources Our Way (G.R.O.W.)
G.R.O.W. is a life skills program for young adults with social and intellectual disabilities. G.R.O.W. strives to teach participants independent living skills, and provides participants with opportunities for them to engage with the community. G.R.O.W. operates a summer programs in Gimli, day programs in Winnipeg, and an outreach program throughout the year.
For more information, visit the G.R.O.W. website.
DASCH is an organization in Winnipeg that provides programs and services to youth and adults with disabilities. DASCH works to help individuals gain independence, living, social, vocational and educational skills through their multiple programs. The organization strives to improve participant’s independence and participation in their community.
For more information, visit the DASCH website.
Community Living disABILITY services
Community Living disABILITY Services (formerly the Supported Living Program) is responsible for the planning, development, maintenance, overall direction and management of programs and resources that support and enhance the quality of life of adults with a mental disability living in the community. The residential services and day services programs support and teach adults with a disability independent living, social, and life skills.
For more information about these services, visit our ‘Services and Supports Available in Adulthood‘ page.
Or visit: Community Living disABILITY services website.
Independent Living Resource Centre (ILRC)
The Independent Living Resource Centre (ILRC) is an organization in Winnipeg that helps and supports individuals with disabilities to make their own decisions and live independent lives. The organization is open to all individuals who have a disability, their families, co-workers, and community organizations. The ILRC runs programs such as peer support groups, independent living skills groups, individual advocacy support, and the PACE program to assist individuals in building their independent living skills.
For more information, visit the ILRC website.
Community Living Winnipeg
Community Living Winnipeg offers the ‘Among Friends’ program for youth aged 13-21 y with and without disabilities. The program promotes community inclusion for youth by creating recreation programs where individuals with and without a disability can socialize, participate and work together. Among friends helps individuals living with a disability build living, social and independence skills through their art programs, events and volunteer opportunities.
For more information on Among Friends programs, visit Community Living Winnipeg.
Turning Leaf: Community Support Services Incorporated
Turning Leaf is a community organization in Winnipeg that provides services and programs to individuals with an intellectual challenge and mental illness. Community supports workers work with individuals to help them gain skills they need to live independent and participate in the community.
For more information, visit the Turning Leaf Inc. website.
As with all resources you find online or in bookstores, etc. it is necessary to use your own discretion and consult with others to decide if their recommendations are a good fit for your son or daughter. Sometimes you need to try something for a while to see if it will work, while in other cases you can see results more quickly. When in doubt, consult with a trusted clinician to determine what might be the best way forward.
- The Ability Hub ‘Pursuits Program’
- Independent Living, available from NHS website.
- Daily Living Skills: A Key to Independence for People with Autism, available from the Interactive Autism Network (IAN).
- Tips for Teaching Essential Independence Skills, available from Autism Asperger’s Digest.
- How do I teach a person with ASD to be more independent?, available from Autism Awareness Centre Inc.
- Developing independence tip sheet – teaching children or students with autism, available from Government of South Australia website.
- Preparing for Life: The Complete Guide for Transitioning to Adulthood for those with Autism and Asperger’s, Dr. Jed Baker
- Autism – Asperger’s and Sexuality: Puberty and Beyond, by Jerry Newport and Mary Newport
- The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, by Dr. Tony Attwood