Are you intimidated by the “failure to launch” syndrome for your young adult with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? For most parents, the term translates into a fear factor, restraining them from helping their young adults with Asperger’s syndrome to transition into the adult world.
As a parent, your support and perception of your child’s ability matter most during this transition. Here’s how you can help your child unleash his/her innate gifts and form a special bond with a social circle, while successfully managing comorbidities for a successful and stress-free life ahead:
1. Overcome your own fears Asperger’s might carry with it challenging conditions, including anxiety. However, this should not interfere with the ability to perform daily chores, go shopping, meet with friends, and travel by public buses or trains. As parents, we must try our best to build hope, happiness, and meaningful connections in children’s hearts.
Understanding the unique abilities of your child through a non-judgmental approach will help you think about the right strategies that will benefit your child the most. Different strategies work with different people. As a parent, your connection with your child is deep and profound. Therefore, you are in the best position to design a plan which includes the required elements of clinical, cognitive, or behavioral therapy, training, and discussion to bring about the required level of independence in your young adult.
For most parents, working through the whole process can be challenging if the appropriate time factor is not attached to it. Sometimes, young adults with autism might start showing results later rather than sooner but always will if given time and support. Mindfulness, tolerance, and persistence have positive impacts on your child in the long run. It enhances the confidence level and belief in his/her abilities.
2. Teach strategies
It’s important to assist your young adult in learning to deal with some of the aspects of Asperger’s syndrome. Here are some strategies to help:
Manage comorbid conditions
Your young adult might be affected by several psychiatric comorbidities like anxiety and depression. Parents can help formulate strategies to manage associated conditions effectively, so they do not become obstacles to social life. As a parent, you might want to make several plans including medication compliance, physician liaison, and contingency plans for crisis situations.
Limit electronic media exposure
One of the most important aspects to foster healthy social interaction is limiting media exposure. While television and video games are educative and relaxing, your young adult might find comfort in spending more time with electronic media in isolation. Setting healthy limits can help considerably during the transition and beyond as your prior planning will give him/her more structure and foster creative thinking.
Get help from support programs
Several professional programs aim to help parents and children make a smooth transition and will ensure your child will achieve the right level of independence. Most programs are professionally drafted and delivered within physical and emotional safety limits.
Focus on the right nutrition
A holistic healing diet with brain healing foods at the core can bring about physiological changes to manage your child’s conditions. Detoxification of the system in a holistic style, triggered by the right foods and super foods, can help enhance cognitive abilities and promote a sense of well-being. Your child will enjoy the wellness feeling as he/she becomes more responsive and involved in his/her surroundings.
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3. Help the child form social partnerships by leveraging unique gifts
Young adults with autism have to be cared for and loved. Sometimes, however, behavior can trigger negative reactions. Therefore, as a parent, you must prepare your child accordingly. A few common aspects include:
- How to get your point across to ensure you are well understood.
- When to accept criticism without losing confidence.
- How to start and hold a conversation.
- How to respond to sensitive and political topics.
- How to make sense of visual cues and body language and act accordingly.
- Ways to keep in touch and form and nurture relationships through the use of verbal communication, written communication, and art of communicating feelings.
Since autism is an often hidden syndrome, most parents might misunderstand their own children and show tough love. Adverse reactions from parents usually happen when a child with autism is not able to make his/her point, or when he/she is not able to meet the expectations set by the parent.
On the flip side, your young adult might possess exceptional gifts and be able to perform feats, unlike most people. As a parent, nurturing these unique gifts helps your child strike a balance and develop the skills required to interface socially with his/her peer group.
Setting expectations must be an iterative process, evaluating your child’s performance against the expected outcomes on a periodic basis. Here are few questions you can ask yourself:
- Does my child possess the required capabilities to meet my expectations in the stipulated time frame? Are my expectations reasonable?
- What is my child’s opinion about the expectations set by me? Did I understand his/her opinion and incorporate it into the structure?
- Is my child happy doing the task, or is he/she reluctant? What motivates him/her?
- Does my child understand the purpose of the expectation set by me? Does he/she believe in the objectives, just as much as I do?
- Is it possible to come to a consensus in the case of a difference of opinion?
All these questions will help you evaluate the nature of your expectations and give enough insight for further reflection. Before starting the transition process, it’s important to evaluate whether it would be prudent to move forward with your current objectives, or restate them and redesign your expectations.
4. Make positive affirmations together Go for the plunge with the right mindset. Young adults with autism are not the only group working on achieving independence. Families facing tough economic times, for example, struggle the most to prepare children for independent social lives. You must, therefore, realize that you are not alone.
Make positive affirmations yourself every day, such as:
- My child is unique, and uniqueness is a good thing.
- My child’s nature of giving is healing for humanity.
- Transition to adulthood is a process every young adult has to go through. The only difference is that I follow a more advanced strategy.
- The time I have given to help my child develop his/her skills all these years is priceless and very powerful. It will propel him/her into the adult world effortlessly.
Help your child make simple self-love affirmations everyday:
- If I love myself and accept my strengths and weaknesses, I can love the people around me and make the world a happier and more loving place.
- I am ready to embrace the beautiful world around me and do what it takes to make a positive change for the people around me.
Choose the right timeframe for your strategy and a comfortable environment for you and your child. As your child starts taking ownership of the objectives laid out by the strategy suggested by you, you will enjoy working through it together. You will receive further motivation along the way, as your child leads you to his/her own successful transition into a perception of independence you defined together.
This article was featured in Issue 67 – Preparing for Adulthood With Autism