Sunday, September 4, 2016

How to help your stay-at-home adult with Asperger's syndrome to change their behaviour and get more out of life.

So, you've got a twenty-something year old with Asperger's syndrome and they're more or less, living on the couch, or on the computer or games console.

Over my last couple of posts, I've covered some of the reasons why adults with Asperger's syndrome choose to stay at home rather than enter the workforce. I've also covered some of the skills which need to be taught and practised before they're ready for work.

In this post, I want to cover the act of "taking flight"... but first, I just want to go over a couple of points;

Education & Work Together can become “Overload”

If your young adult (YA) is engaged in tertiary study, for example at a University or College, you probably can't expect them to hold down a job as well. Remember that people with Asperger's usually need time away from others, particularly after a very "social" day.

It's not impossible but I'd advise against it, especially in the first year. Working full-time and studying part time is better but again, not recommended in the first year. Give your YA time to adjust before increasing their workload and social experience.


Get Out First, Jobs are Secondary 

Unless there's a really pressing economic issue at home, there shouldn't be significant urgency on the job front. After all, you've spent years raising your child without additional support, you should be able to go a few more weeks.

If your young adult isn't even leaving the house, they're not going to be ready to jump straight into a job.

You need to work on getting them out of the house and relating to other people. You'll have to start "small", for example; getting them to go pick up some milk and bread from the store. If they don't have a car, they could walk.

Start with a short list and add more requests and more complexity, such as specific brands. After a few goes, You might even want to ask them to find items they wouldn't normally find or recognise, this will hopefully encourage them to improvise and to ask questions or seek help.

Over time,you’ll want your young adult to develop "preemptive" skills where they start to predict what you need and/or make their own shopping lists. This is what job adverts mean when they say "self-starter".

Until your young adult is capable of doing this, work is probably not the best place for them.


Work is not for Everyone 

No job-seeking technique is foolproof and that work is not necessarily for everyone.

I covered many of the reasons in my first post but it's worth remembering that the employment statistics for people with ASDs (autism spectrum disorders) are significantly lower than the general population.

This isn't necessarily “because they have autism", it's often simply because they present differently to the other candidates for a job.

Occasionally, these differences can work in their favour and make them "memorable" to the interviewers. Usually though, these individuals come off as very introverted or very nervous.

It's not that employers deliberately exclude them but simply that, particularly these days, there are far fewer jobs than there are candidates - and employers use the interview process to select not only "the best" but also "the cheapest.

Younger and less educated people are cheaper, so if prospective employers tell you that you're "over qualified" it usually means that they want to spend less.

If you don't have a good resume and you don't interview well, then your chances of employment are very low indeed.


Changing Sleeping Patterns 

When you're not working or going to school, you tend to fall into bad sleeping patterns. These start in the teen years, where they are usually restricted to weekends and holidays but when school ends, it can become a very familiar pattern and a very hard one to change.

The specific behaviour is late (past midnight) nights and late (getting up at 11am) mornings. Unless you're looking at a career as a night watchman, this will impede the whole job process. Believe it or not, prospective employers can usually tell if you just got out of bed.

The other thing about this sleeping pattern is that there's not much to do during the majority of the waking time as more than half of it is at night.

You can't do chores at night because it will wake others up. You can't be active because walking or swimming at night is dangerous - and shops are usually not open.

This means that the activities are limited to fairly passive ones, like eating, watching TV, playing computer games or reading books. There's nothing particularly wrong with these activities provided that they're done in moderation and not at the expense of “life”. Doing this every night can lead to various addictions to foods, computer games or television.

If you're the parent of a stay-at-home adult, you have to disrupt this routine and rouse your young adults at a decent time.

Of course, that's not likely to work in the long term unless they have somewhere to be.

Becoming Busy

When your YA is functioning well with the outings discussed earlier, it's time to start developing a 9-5 work pattern. To do this, you need to find things to fill in your young adult’s time.

Unfortunately housework simply won't cut it. They’ll quickly realise that housework can be done at almost any time without the need to get up early.
The distractions need to be outside the home and productive and ideally should involve the use of transport.

Using public or private transport teaches skills which are necessary for work such as planning and dealing with sudden changes in schedules and availability.

Good “time-wasters” include; free courses such as youth vocational support programs and skills classes, gym classes and volunteer work.

The best places for volunteer work are those which support already overloaded and under-funded services.

Becoming a scout leader is a great option for youth who relate well to younger generations. The scouts are always looking for volunteers and they provide a lot of free and valuable training and experience.

Working with the elderly, the homeless, or with children or pets can be an interesting and rewarding opportunity  and, of course, volunteer work still looks good on your resume.

Reduce but don't eliminate leisure interests

The main aim of this exercise is to get your young adults to interact with people on a daily basis and to prevent them from becoming “housebound” reclusiveness.

You want the youths to adopt a lifestyle that fits in well with the way that our society operates. You also need them to interact with family, so I'd recommend that mealtimes, or at least “dinner” be held at a “family table” without devices or television whenever possible.

A certain amount of chores and personal grooming are also probably to be expected but beyond that, your young adult's right to free time needs to be respected.

Their special interests, be they television or gaming or something else, should be something that they can look forward to after a long day.  After all, it’s important that they get winding down time and/or alone time if that’s what they require.


With luck, your young adult will get tired of volunteering and seek opportunities to earn money for themselves. Ideally they’ll take more steps down the road to independence - but if nothing else comes of it, then at least you’ve gotten them out of the house. 

2 comments:

Fiona said...

My daughters have both gone back to university now but I'll keep your strategies for future reference - I definitely will be needing them.

Rachel Samuels said...

I'm an Aspie in my middle twenties, and I've lived at home ever since graduating from college. I agree very much with what you said about Aspies needing things outside of the house to keep us content.
I'd just like to add that volunteering can be an excellent way to gain that fulfillment. I volunteered at the local elementary school fifteen hours a week before I got a part-time job that occasionally becomes a full time one. I've kept up the volunteer work because it is much more rewarding than the paying one.]

An Aspie trying to keep a job while in college though: Unless he or she has better stress tolerance than I do, that is a bad idea. He or she won't know which direction to focus their energy and that becomes incredibly frustrating.