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Asperger's Syndrome: As Your Teen Becomes Independent

written by: Debbie Roome • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 4/25/2011

Does your teen have Asperger's syndrome? Preparing an adolescent for living on their own is something parents often struggle with. Here are some practical tips on how to prepare Asperger’s teens for independent living.

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    Why Would Asperger’s Teens Leave Home?

    Asperger’s adolescents are on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, and many will reach the place where they leave home and attempt to create a life on their own. This can be worrying for parents who are aware of their child’s limitations. An Asperger’s teen may choose to leave home for the purpose of studying or else they may desire to move in with friends or set up home on their own. Wise parents will start teaching an Asperger’s teen the appropriate life skills from a young age.

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    Asperger's Syndrome: Preparing an Adolescent for Living on Their Own at College

    While a teen may have roommates at college, they are still essentially on their own in many ways. Here are some tips for parents on how to prepare their Asperger’s child for college days:

    • Take the teen to the campus and walk around with them several times until they have a basic idea of where everything is and where the buildings are in relation to the residences.
    • If the Asperger’s adolescent has problems with certain foods, prepare them for the possibility of being served meals they cannot handle. Ensure that they learn basic cooking skills and are able to put together a meal using a hot plate or microwave. Nutrition is part of this, and they need to understand that living on junk food is not an option.
    • Coach the teen on what to do in an emergency such as taking ill, losing their way around town or being threatened by other people. Practice various scenarios with them until they are confident of what to do in any given situation.
    • Ensure they have a list of emergency contact numbers to keep in their wallet, and tell them they can call anytime.
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    Asperger's Syndrome: Preparing an Adolescent for Living on Their Own and Working

    When an Asperger’s child approaches their late teens, they may desire to move out or they may find employment that means living on the other side of the city or in a different town. Parents can help in the following ways:

    • Asperger’s adolescents are often more immature than their peers and also vulnerable to unscrupulous people. When they start looking for accommodations, accompany them and discuss the implications of signing a lease, the area there the property is located, and the responsibilities of looking after an apartment or a room.
    • Teach them basic laundry skills and impress on them the importance of dressing appropriately for work. No wrinkled or dirty clothing can be acceptable.
    • Include an Asperger’s teen when paying monthly bills and allow them to help with record keeping and check writing. Practical experience will stand them in good stead when they have to start doing this for themselves.
    • Don’t smother the teen by visiting every day or being critical of every small mistake. Misjudgements and bad calls are part of life and are often the best way to learn.

    It can be frightening to allow an Asperger’s teen to move out and start living on their own. Preparation over preceding months and years is the best way to ensure the child has the best possible start and impress on them that they can call anytime, day or night, if they have a problem.

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    References

    Pretending to be Normal, Liane Holliday Willey, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1999

    Segar, Marc.Autism-Help.org. Lliving Away From Home, retrieved at http://www.autism-help.org/aspergers-guide-living.htm