WHAT TO PACK ON YOUR WAY TO ADULTHOOD – Guest Article

Delighted and honored to feature a guest post from Glenn Laniewski of autismplusLandE. The L and E stand for “learning” and “employment” and Glenn’s blog offers “resources, adaptations, and solutions to maximize learning and employment for individuals with Autism.” For more information about Glenn and his experience and expertise, click here[This site appears to be no longer live – I will update again if it comes back up]


WHAT TO PACK ON YOUR WAY TO ADULTHOOD

The focus of my blog, autismplusLandE, is on learning and employment for adults and transition age (16+) teens with autism.  In speaking with Autism Mom, we came up with the idea of sharing ideas that would help parents of pre-teen children in preparing for the road ahead. 

As someone who has both personal and professional experience working with parents of children with autism, the last thing that I want to do is to provide a bunch of suggestions that will just take up more of your limited time when you may already be spread thin trying to keep up with today’s challenges.  So with that in mind, I’d like to share some suggestions.

Keep a calendar by your nightstand

Get one of those ringed week-at-a-glance two pages to a week calendars that’s about the size of a paperback book and keep it by your nightstand.  Before you go to bed each night, take two minutes and jot down the answers to three questions.

One:  What’s one thing that went well today?

Examples: Your son brushed his teeth without assistance; he made it through the drive to his appointment without hitting; he said “Thank you” after receiving a gift from his aunt.  Don’t worry about deciding on the best example, just write the first thing that comes to mind.

Two:  What’s one thing that still needs improvement?

Examples: Toileting; listening when in a bad mood; waiting her turn. 

Three:  What’s one thing you’re grateful for?

Examples: Your family, the smile of your child, the home you live in.

It is incredibly easy to lose sight of the gains your child has made, and the calendar can provide a quick way to review the gains when you or your partner become discouraged.  It also can provide visibility to challenges that need to be worked on but that could be forgotten in a few days if not written down.  And finally, review of the calendar can provide perspective of all the good things in your life when things are at their hardest.

Start volunteering now

I created a free ebooklet on this subject, but the main point is that volunteering provides an opportunity to practice work skills such as showing up on time, taking direction from new people, persistence and stamina, doing work that may not be liked, and working in a new environment that’s different from the safety of home and school.  As many parents of high school children can attest, developing a strong work ethic is much easier with a pre-teen than when they become a high school teenager and start to resist authority and assert their independence. 

The second reason for starting volunteering now is that when your child graduates from high school at 18 or 19 or 20 or 21, you may find that maintaining their government benefits is of primary importance; and that to maintain those benefits your adult child is often restricted to working less than full time hours.  Having the additional work outlet of volunteering for your adult child can help fill the void in a meaningful way, as well as provide respite hours for parents and family.

Think about the employment opportunities where you currently live

Where you currently live may provide the best educational supports for your child, but it may not be the best place to live when your child becomes an adult:

To get care for their daughter, they had to leave St. Louis County

Some things to consider.

If driving themselves to work is not going to be an option for your child when they become an adult, are there businesses within walking distance of your home or is there easy access to public transportation? 

Will it make more sense when your child is an adult to (a) pay for a taxi or to have a parent take off from work to provide transportation or (b) move to where work is more easily accessible by walking or public transportation. 

I share these ideas not to overwhelm you but rather to provide food for thought so that when a viable option becomes available—an aunt moves into the city and could have your child stay with them during the week—you are well-poised to take advantage of it.

What skills may your child need to walk to a job or take public transportation?  A few skills come to mind:

·       Following directions

·       Reading signs

·       Asking for help

·       Crossing the street only at the light

·       Paying for public transportation

·       Telling time

·       Showing up to work on time

·       Knowing what time to start work and when to leave

·       Knowing how to call home on a cellphone

All of these are skills that you or your child’s support professionals may already be working on, which means that you are already helping to prepare them for their vocational future.

Glenn post