When a child receives a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, parents often wonder if independent living with Asperger's Syndrome is possible. Many people with moderate to mild Aspergers can achieve some level of independent living. An intervention program that includes life skills training can help a person prepare for independence. Early intervention and parental involvement can make a major difference in helping a child with Aspergers achieve independence as an adult.
Achieving Independent Living with Asperger's Syndrome
Since each case of Aspergers is unique, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe, the quest for independent living is different for each person. A highly functional person with mild Aspergers may require only a structured environment and a little therapy in order to live independently while a person with moderate to severe AS may need life skills training and daily support services to successfully live alone and hold a job.
Parents can prepare a child with Aspergers for independence as an adult by making sure they acquire the necessary skills for independent living and follow an effective intervention program.
Necessary Life Skills for Independent Living
Life skills training is important for all people with Aspergers. Some parents teach life skills at home and some skills are taught by therapists and reinforced by the parents at home. The person with Aspergers' level of impairment determines how much life skills training is necessary.There are life skills training programs for both children and adults for each life stage. Parents can enroll a child in a life skills program. Some programs are one-to-one training, while others are group training. People with Aspergers may need life skills training in the following areas in order to achieve independent living:
- Communication and social skills help
- Speech and language therapy
- Assistance with how to understand and follow directions
- Dressing appropriately for life activities
- Understanding the importance of daily grooming and personal hygiene
- Potty training
- Housekeeping and chore training
- Grocery shopping for balanced diet
- Budget management
- Student life assistance
- Job skills and work environment training
Independent Living Programs
Independent living programs include life skills training to prepare adults with Aspergers to live on their own. The programs provide the necessary skills for a person to deal with the daily life issues and social demands of living independently. Some independent living programs are residential, which require the participant to live on the premises. Under the guidance of trained professionals, participants gradually learn to rely on themselves until they are performing daily tasks independently. These programs can prepare a youth for living on campus in college or for an adult about to get his first apartment.
Therapies That Help Independent Living
A number of therapies can help prepare a person with Aspergers for independent living. Many of these therapies can start in childhood and continue into adulthood. These therapies include:
- Speech and Language Therapy: A person with Aspergers may need speech and language therapy, especially in the areas of participating in two-way conversations and understanding verbal instructions.
- Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy can help a person with daily life activities necessary for independent living. Learning how to dress appropriately and achieving potty training are examples of occupational therapy.
- Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapy can help a person eliminate undesirable behavior that may interfere with independence.
- Sensory Integration Therapy: Sensory integration therapy can people deal with a sensory issue in order to function better without help.
Vocational training can help develop job skills. This type of training also address co-worker interaction and the necessary behavior and social skills required in a work environment for a particular job. Vocational training can make a difference in job success and easing a person with Aspergers transition into work life.
Preparing a Child for Independence
Parents can prepare a child for independence by staying actively involved in all of the child's therapies and educational programs. Working closely with the child's therapists and teachers as well as providing a structured living environment can make a major difference in intervention success. The parental involvement can also help parents recognize when an intervention is working or when new methods are required to best meet the child's needs. Parents should also join family Aspergers support organizations and encourage adult children to seek out Aspergers support organizations and services.
Learning about Aspergers and what techniques have helped others achieve independence can help parents and affected individuals dealing with Aspergers. Reading the advice of experts, such as Temple Grandin, a college professor and autism activist who also has autism, can be helpful. Grandin has written extensively on how to help people with autism and Aspergers live independently. In her article, "Transition to Employment and Independent Living for Individuals with Autism and Aspergers," Grandin stresses that working while still in school helps prepare youth for living independently during adulthood. The work experience during her teen years helped her gradually acquire better social and job skills for adulthood, making the transition to college and work life easier. She also encourages adults with Aspergers who have not previously worked or lived alone to pursue job and life skills necessary for independence.
Independence Is Possible
Parents can take comfort in the fact that some level of independent living with Asperger's Syndrome is achievable for many people. The large number of Aspergers support services and programs, effective treatments and the growing Aspergers awareness among employers provide opportunities for a person with Aspergers to strive for independent living. Social service programs can assist people with more severe forms of Aspergers who need daily assistance to live independently. A child with Aspergers can grow up to have fulfilling career, meaningful relationships and independence.