Podcast Interview: “On the Spectrum. Transitioning from Highschool to College.”

On the 24th of September, I had the pleasure of being interviewed for a podcast called “Converge Autism Radio,” by Stephanie Holmes. It was here that I shared my long road in education. In this podcast, talk about living on the spectrum and dealing with road blocks and the opinion of others.

https://www.spreaker.com/episode/19245536

Successful Ways to Becoming Independent

On April 21st, 2017, I gave my first presentation outside of the city of Atlanta and even further, out-of-state in at the 8th annual Chattanooga Autism Conference on “Steps to Becoming Independent,” which I shared content in my last blog entry on June 18, 2017.  During that hour and 15 minutes in the adult’s track, the entire room was so packed that some of my audience members sat on the floor.  The room consisted of individuals on the spectrum, parents, caregivers, professionals and people in medical-type of professions.  While I lightly compared and contrasted on three individuals’ points of view on becoming independent, this blog will feature more of a practical application on how I believe one on the spectrum can strive to become independent, though I am reminded not to assume that every child, adolescent, and adult is the same in reaching those goals. Nonetheless,  I would like to draw attention to my ideas on steps that one can take to independence.

 

On the whole,  there are 15 steps that I identified when putting my together my presentation for the Chattanooga Autism Conference that I felt were real practical applications that can be put to use which I will again narrow down.  Nonetheless, the entire principle behind these steps is like teaching a knight or a soldier to arm themselves for battle as the world outside of the home can be a very scary place.  For someone living on the spectrum, teaching these things help in preventing an adult from going into one of the life’s battles without that armor.   When I moved out on my own at age 20 for the first time, for example,  I thought I could sit around and watch cable TV like I did at my parent’s house.  In spite of that, I soon learned that I had new responsibilities and expectations.  For instance, I resided in a rental house and was required to mow the lawn though I had no prior experience due to my father refusing to teach me as he then looked at autism differently than he would now.  For that reason alone, I soon ran into a roommate who was constantly sullen around me.  The experience of being around this kind of hostility scared enough that I got myself into trouble in other areas.   All the same, I now have the tools that I lacked fifteen years ago that I can now instruct other individuals and their families to apply when reaching for the stars of independence.

 

The first step that I find to be the most crucial is learning how to do chores around the house and taking turns to do so.  These chores should be put on a monthly chart where one does one chore all month long another does a different chore within the same month.   For instance, the individual would spend the month collecting all of the garbage in the house, put into the big bin in the garage and taking it to the driveway for the garbage man to pick up on weekly.  Another alliterative to this would be to take the trash to the dumpster or garbage chute on a daily basis. In return, parents and guardians should be giving the child allowance by not only rewarding the child but also teaching them about the value of employment.

 

 

Mowing lawn
Learning to mow the lawn should never been denied by parents or guardians

The second step adjoins with the first by teaching and showing older individuals how to use more advanced appliances for household chores.  Examples would be, a vacuum cleaner, a lawn mower, and a carpet cleaner.  Like with the first step, each family member takes their monthly turns mowing the lawn, while another washes or steams the carpet.

 

 

A third critical step that I believe plays a huge role is learning how to plan, cook or prepare meals for entire family members.  Being that this is the modern age mobile apps like Yummily and websites like Pinterest have lots of great and creative recipes for one to try.  Other ideas entail cookbooks such as “Just 5 Things” where one can great a gourmet recipe on five ingredients for those who are beginners.  First, though, one should always be taught how to cook, use proper measuring cups and spoons, and plan start and stop times accordingly to meal times.  Second,  learning how to look through these sources mentioned above, creating menus, writing them down and sharing them with family members along with negotiating when the individual will cook  Third, going over the approved recipes planned and seeing what one has on hand and what is needed in order to prepare the recipe.  Fourth, is advising one how to make a list and practice going to the store with their family members.

 

 

Cooking
Teaching individuals to plan and prepare family meals can enhance indepence

 

A fourth step that once again combines nicely while taking a slightly different angle is by gradually weaning when the child is old enough to be alone in certain places.  This is not only allowing these individuals to use their allowance money, and a grocery list for their meals but also shop for other needs and wants in stores like Target.

A fifth step will come once the child reaches adolescence and adulthood where parents and guardians should have a list of networks which consist of family, friends, neighbors, and people in place of worship for the sake of employment.   Notwithstanding, one these networks should be positive employers who should not only be understanding but also empowering and willing to teach essential job skills such as computer coding and perhaps job interviews.

A sixth step that may sound silly that may sound silly is allowing children and adolescents to sleep away from home.  Situations include sleepovers at friend’s houses, going to visit family members far away, and retreats.  Not only is a family member gradually weaning their child but the child is becoming comfortable with being away from home.  Otherwise, one who has never been away from home without the family nearby can experience stress, anxiety, and fear.  Being that people have put me into a little box, I have been around other adults who have been so overly protected that sleeping over at home was simply too much for them.

A seventh step brings about communicating with adolescents and young adults about serious issues outside of the home and even on the internet.   Such topics should include, how to recognize when someone is trying to take advantage of the individual and when to say no, having a run on with law enforcements, and meeting people online.

An eighth step can be on guidance in using a checkbook, reconcile a bank statement and keep track of what amounts are in the account.  Though I had failed during the time that I lived with my roommates between 2002 and 2003,   I had eventually learned how to do each of these things in three years later after moving in with my aunt once my lease expired.   Moreover, create a budget spreadsheet in order to help with budgeting for future living arrangements

A ninth step again ties into the eighth step by allowing these individuals to assist by splitting utility bills and perhaps rent so that they learn how to take on responsibilities.  Another option would be to create a calendar with due dates of the payments.

A tenth area should be encouraging that one learns to use transportation suited to their needs and budget.  For example, some people on the spectrum can learn to drive and get their own car.  Depending on if they are ready, parents and guardians should encourage the adolescents and young adults to take driving lessons.  If they cannot drive, however, options to learn the routes and bus schedules, learning to use ride-share companies and cabs are also included.  Furthermore, arranging carpools with people going the same direction can be of help.

An eleventh area would be to encourage adolescents and adults to get involved in areas of special interests such as a community such as attending a local astonomy club and meet up groups based on those interest.  Other areas that should be included are local houses of worship where one can learn to be involved by volunteering.

A twelfth and final area that should most definitely be encouraged is to steer these individuals away from people who are going to be patronizing because I feel that these adults are most likely going to have a negative view of autism as a whole.  In fact, one late mentor who was also a self-advocate on the spectrum explained to me that you have people who act like hammers who have the tendency to treat people like a nail by finalizing that we are broken and need to be fixed.  My suggestion is to avoid people like this as much as possible as they are going bring these individuals down.

While  I feel that these steps will be helpful, there is a realization that there is a multitude of challenges among those who care for children, teens and adolescents alike.  For one thing,  I have seen parents argue over their children’s abilities.  Whereas one will debate that their child has certain problems combined with their autism, the other spouse often battles the other parent on how they have enabled that child to become lazy.   In the mean time, nothing productive gets done and the child continues to spiral downward.  Though I cannot speak for every individual and their strengths and weaknesses, I do realize each had things that they can do and work around what they truly cannot do.

 

References

First Time Living Independently [Photograph found in LaLa Kringry]. (2014, December 24). Retrieved April 24, 2017, from http://www.memes.com/coffeeglue/87 (Originally photographed 2014, December 24).

[Photograph found in Making Money through Chores, Wikipedia]. (n.d.). Retrieved June 20, 2017, from http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Money-Through-Chores.

Savitzky, A. (2013, June 23). Match Cooking [Photograph found in Match Cooking, Good Thinking, Syracuse]. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from http://newatlas.com/match-prep-cooking-system-offers-independence-to-adults-with-autism/28028/ (Originally photographed 2013, June 23)