Independent Living with autism spectrum disorder

Children with autism often face challenges in developing independent living skills, and the journey toward autonomy can be a unique and intricate process. Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder require specialized support to accommodate their unique needs.
It’s common for daily activities such as getting dressed, cooking meals, and maintaining personal hygiene to present difficulties. As a parent, observing and experiencing these struggles can be both emotionally draining and heart-wrenching. You can improve your child’s quality of life by teaching them life skills for autism. Before we proceed, let’s first gain a clear understanding of personal autonomy.

What does it mean to be autonomous?
Autonomy is the ability to take care of yourself. Babies and young children start becoming autonomous early on—grabbing toys, crawling, walking, choosing clothes, carrying bags, riding scooters. Children’s desire for independence is fulfilled when they gain autonomy and are not dependent on others. Despite the freedom it gives kids, parents still need to guide them through this process of becoming self-sufficient. Children with autism may have less social motivation and may not always seek autonomy. They may not compare themselves to their peers or respond to social encouragement.
Some individuals with autism have trouble applying learned behaviors in new situations. Learning new skills can be challenging and require hard work, which may not always be enjoyable or immediately rewarding. This is where parents play an important role—they can tailor learning to match their child’s abilities, be supportive, and ensure educational consistency.

Is it possible for an individual with autism spectrum disorder to live independently?
Some individuals with autism can live independently as adults. The level of independence achieved in adulthood will vary from one individual to another.
Adult independent living skills
are designed to help each individual reach their highest level of self-sufficiency. An autism diagnosis does not mean that your children will never attend college, have relationships, a career, etc. There are various wonderful programs for every individual that can help them reach their full potential. By working toward different levels of independence over time, people with autism can develop the skills they need to be successful.

Tips for Teaching Individuals with ASD Independent Living Skills
Teaching independent living skills to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) requires a tailored, creative, and patient approach. Here are some tips to help facilitate the development of these essential skills.
Customize your teaching approach
When teaching independent living skills to autistic individuals, it’s essential to customize your approach to meet their unique capabilities and aspirations. First, determine which real-world tasks align with personal objectives. Then, identify the teaching techniques that work best for your child. Create a customized instruction plan based on those techniques to ensure effective learning. This personalized approach gives them the best chance of developing the life skills necessary for adult self-sufficiency.

Structured vs. Natural Approach
You can teach real-world skills to an autistic individual using highly structured drills or naturalistic practice, which includes integrating lessons into daily routines. For example, let’s break down the task of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A formal approach would be showing your son or daughter images of each step—spreading peanut butter, adding jelly, closing the sandwich—and having them verbally identify or sequence the cards. A natural approach would be inviting your son or daughter to make an actual sandwich during snack time, learning by actively doing rather than abstract instruction. Walking through a routine or using images to establish competence can lead to smooth execution, with guidance fading with time. By embracing flexibility and creativity, you can ensure that your son or daughter has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Assess your child’s current skills
It’s crucial to evaluate your child’s abilities. Observe your child and make note of their strengths, weaknesses, and emerging skills. Focus on a specific skill to identify where your son or daughter needs extra help. You may also want to consult a specialist to formally assess your child’s current functioning level and areas they could improve.

Take help from visuals
Using visual aids is an effective way to teach new skills and abilities. They provide clear and detailed visual cues that can guide an individual toward completing tasks independently and with ease. Examples of visual aids include calendars, checklists, picture schedules, color-coded systems, charts, lists, and token boards.

It’s all about practice
Gaining independence can be a challenging task for individuals with ASD. Individuals with disabilities may require extensive practice in daily living and self-care skills. It’s essential to provide support and recognize that individuals may need time to develop their independence.

Help your son or daughter hone their abilities
Autistic individuals can master money skills with patience, support, and resources. Teach your son or daughter about money by having them practice with play money. Use simple language and short sentences to explain financial concepts. Start with the basics and avoid complex jargon. You can also set up a pretend “store” at home where they can earn and spend money on items. Provide real-world opportunities for them to use money skills in the community. This will help them understand the value of money and develop good money management habits.
Routine Creation
Having consistent daily routines is crucial to independent living. You can model routines in your own life and teach your son or daughter how to create their routine. Use checklists and visual aids to help your son or daughter learn self-care skills. Over time, routines can help them to become more efficient at completing daily tasks.

Teach Community Safety Skills
As your son or daughter becomes more independent and starts to navigate the world independently, ensuring their safety becomes a top priority. To help them develop the necessary skills for safe, independent travel, it is essential to provide them with comprehensive training on pedestrian safety. By doing so, you can help your child gain the knowledge and confidence they need to stay safe and secure as they explore the world around them.

How can we help?
At Adulting on the Spectrum, we provide specialized resources for individuals with autism to enhance their independence in the community, schools, and home. Our practical solutions promote personal growth and independence for teens and adults. Acquiring these skills is not an activity that can be completed in a single day. Independent living skills require continuous effort and dedication to develop.