One of life’s great journeys is the transition we take from teenage years to becoming adults and forming our identity. Adults living with Autism (ASD) can face unique challenges during these formative years. This is a stage of life where young people are looking to make their move towards securing a job, setting up their own home and establishing relationships or a family. Research from the American Academy of Paediatrics suggests that adults living with autism are often less likely to be living independently or be able to find and maintain a job than people living with other types of disability.
Helping teenagers transition to adulthood
Explicit teaching of daily life skills is essential to equip those living with ASD to transition into independent and successful adult life. Those everyday life and adaptive skills are vital to coping with increased independence, and include skills such as personal hygiene, handling money, preparing food, cleaning and travelling.
A study led by Amie W. Duncan Ph. D. has found that teenagers with autism possessing average to above-average intelligence have adaptive skills equivalent to that of someone living with a mild to moderate intellectual disability. Often it is the case that autistic adults with higher intelligence have lower life skills, which is possibly due to having not had the opportunity to develop those skills when they were younger. Parents of ASD children can often overlook the benefits of providing these life skill learning opportunities, particularly when those children possess a high capacity for academic learning.
Starting your working life
Autistic adults bring unique skill-sets to the workforce that when harnessed can be transformative for an organisation. However, they often experience difficulties finding and keeping jobs because of the challenges of relating to people and understanding the nuances of social situations.
A traditional interview process where communication is key can be a huge stumbling block for those with ASD. There is, however, an increase in employers who recognise the skill sets that those with ASD possess, and provide employment opportunities where those skills are an advantage.
One example of this is Specialisterne, a company that specialises in finding employment for people on the autism spectrum by connecting them with businesses in fields where skills such as superior attention to detail, pattern recognition and diligence can be highly valued and well utilised. This is often in fields such as IT, engineering and farming.
Adjustments need to be made by the employer with regards to training and flexibility in the job role to provide an environment that will allow their ASD employees to thrive.
NDIS participants can utilise the School Leaver Employment Support (SLES) for up to 2 years after finishing year 12 to assist them in finding employment. This scheme aims to provide support to help plan a pathway to employment including work experience, job skills training and travel training.
Enjoying lasting relationships
We’ve all been there, the anxiety and excitement we feel when we put ourselves out there in the dating world. For those with ASD, it can be an overwhelming prospect to navigate all the social expectations that exist around dating. If you have the opportunity of watching the 4 part documentary series ‘Love on the Spectrum’ on Netflix, it provides a heart-warming insight into some of the range of experiences that those with ASD face when trying to find a romantic partner. The skills required to navigate a dating situation, like other social skills, do need to be taught. Practising scenarios and conversation starters can be really useful in preparation for a date.
Becoming independent is a fulfilling stage in life – a stage when we feel we are in control of our own lives. For Adults living with autism, finding suitable housing arrangements can be difficult. There are some helpful tips and links to be found on the following website: http://www.autismlaunchpad.org.au/learning/housing/
This includes examples of individuals with ASD who have pooled their NDIS funding to live in a shared house.
Often people with ASD can find a like-minded community on the internet, and this is probably a good place to start to gather information on what options might suit an individual’s unique set of circumstances.
The Netflix television series ‘Atypical’ – a comedy series which follows the experiences of 18-year-old boy Sam and his quest to find a girlfriend, provides an understanding about how to relate to those on the autism spectrum as they transition into adulthood. Although it perhaps has some inaccuracies in its depiction of life with autism, it does shine a light on some of the challenges faced by not only Sam but his mother, as he moves towards gaining independence.
It’s important to understand the role we can all play in helping teenagers with autism transition to adulthood. Adults with ASD benefit significantly from increased community awareness and understanding of life on the autism spectrum.
Zest Personalised Care is a registered provider of NDIS disability support services with two decades of experience in the care industry. Please get in touch if you’d like any more information about how we work with individuals to achieve their goals.