Wednesday 15 November 2023

Helping my autistic son to have more responsibility

Teenage shoes

There's been a lot of focus on schools and qualifications for teenagers over the last few years - and rightly so.  But being a teenager can mean learning a lot more than just academics.  For many kids this is the time they need to learn about  being responsible for themselves, learning the life skills they will need to become as independent as possible.  For some it will be learning about budgeting and time keeping for others this might be being able to make a meal or get dressed independently.  

I've got three very different kids.  My eldest son is an autistic teenager and although most of the time he doesn't appear that different to his neurotypical peers, he is.  And he needs help learning the skills he'll need to be independent. He is desperate to be responsible for himself, but this means he needs to have a certain level of confidence and self-awareness and that he'll have the tools to succeed.  Hopefully this means that he will have better relationships, happier friendships and  be able to handle himself better, too.  

From helping them to learn the best decision-making skills, to ensuring that your teenager is able to carry themselves as well as they can, you are going to be the reason your teenager gets to adulthood in one piece. So, with this in mind, here are some things we'll be helping our teenager to learn. 

Some parents don't teach their teenagers how to wash their clothes. While me washing their clothes when they are children is of course fine, they need to be responsible for their own clothes.  They'll need to know how to wash their own clothes eventually but we can start by giving our eldest the responsibility for example to tell me if he needs something washed for a particular day or occasion.  Otherwise it's pot luck as it comes through the laundry.   Folding clothes and putting them away is another task and for our kids they might all have to be taught separately. 

Grocery shopping
Many families will have taken their kids shopping multiple times over the years but it's not always the case when you have autistic kids.  Super markets can be overwhelming for many autistic people so starting at smaller shops can often be helpful.  Even with that there's lots involved in shopping. You can show your teenagers how to write a shopping list according to the needs of the house, and you can talk about what they like to eat at different times of the day.  We've talked about best before/use by dates with our eldest so he knows what order to eat the food in that's in the cupboard. 

We often take over to get their butts moving in the mornings, but for some of our kids we'll have to pass the responsibility to them and let them self-manage. From alarm clocks to voice notes, you can help your teenager to get into a good routine with themselves and enable them to get up and out of bed in the morning. It's not always easy to help your teenager learn time management, but this is going to help them to be more self-aware and this will be a skill that sees them far into the future.

As well as all the other daily chores that we need to teach our teenager to handle, we have to consider their own cleaning abilities. This isn't just their room - but the whole thing about cleaning themselves.  When they were younger we could just dip them in a bath and it would be ok but now with teenage bodies they need to learn about ablutions, deodorant and so on.  A routine chart can help some kids be more independent with this.  

Supporting Siblings
It's easy as a teenager to get tied up in what they are doing.  But this is the time when the idea of responsibility could be taken further.  our younger daughter often will already 'watch' one of her autistic siblings while we are in the other room to let us know if they need help.  But this idea can work the other way too.  The idea of watching out for each other and getting help if someone else needs it is a great thing to instil and something that probably comes more naturally than I thought. 

There's so much to learn to help them become responsible adults, especially when the world isn't set up for kids like ours - if you've got any good advice I'd love to hear it too. 

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