Aspies' Failure to Launch - what are you supposed to do?

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Petals021
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24 Nov 2012, 9:38 pm

I'm just wondering what kind of discipline is supposed to be appropriate for older - teen and college-age - aspies who don't adjust to independent life. Have any of you ever resorted to extreme measures like throwing your kid out of the house or cutting them off financially? Is that considered an acceptable way to deal with an aspie kid and does it ever improve their behavior? II haven't seen too many articles on how to deal with this problem, or if it is even considered a problem or just is the way aspie kids are. Do any of you have experience with this?
Thanks!


EDIT: My question seems to have been misunderstood. I'm not a parent asking how I should treat my child. I'm an aspie myself and I'm wondering what the conventional wisdom is, or what the current expert opinion is on this subject. If a parent today goes to the "experts" with the problem of a young adult child who has no interest in getting a job, for example, what will those experts tell them? I haven't seen any "official articles" on this subject so I wondered what the standard approach is. I actually did see some mention of the concept of 'training" the aspie kid and I wondered just what this involves, and whether "tough love" is any part of it.
Thanks for everyone's answers here; I'm sorry I didn't make my question more clear at the outset.



Last edited by Petals021 on 25 Nov 2012, 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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24 Nov 2012, 9:58 pm

Could you clarify, please, what you mean by not adjusting to independent life?


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24 Nov 2012, 10:25 pm

I know you were asking for responses from parents, but I thought I'd chime in as an autistic kid.

I'm 45 years old and was diagnosed with asperger's in 2001 at the age of 34.

My mother practiced "tough love" with me, which included pushing me out of her house. The only time I was allowed to return was when I was pregnant and homeless but she made it clear that I was an imposition and not to stay. She handed me a flat of ramen noodles, helped me apply for disability, and got me out of the house as soon as the money came through.

My 20s were spent in and out of homelessness. I couldn't hold on to a job. I had job after job and worked hard, showe dup on time, and am very bright but would always end up getting "let go" after a few weeks. I have slept in the park, on loading docks, in stalls of public bathrooms, and propped behind books in the public library. I have eaten at soup kitchens, tins of sardines carried around in a rucksack, out of dumpsters, leftovers people walked away from at tables in outdoor cafés, bread stolen off delivery trucks (I have celiac, by the way) and food I've begged from people or food bought with money I've begged from people.

I've done things that were illegal or shameful, just to survive. Tough love didn't make me "shape up," it just left me floundering alone without the tools I needed to survive.

I can't tell anyone how to raise their child, but I'd like people to remember my life when they think about how to deal with their child. If a child is floundering, no amount of "throwing them in the deep end" is going to teach them to swim on their own.

My life was so hard because I was undiagnosed so teachers, parents, and psychiatrists were left confused and forced to come up with their own explanations for my behavior. Most often, those explanations involved me being "bad" or "wilfull." I don't think I was either of those things. I began to be brought to professionals at age 5 -- my difficulties were clear from very early on -- but since I was born in 1967, I was 27 years old before asperger's even entered the DSM. Plus, I am profoundly gifted so I think I can forgive all those people in my past who saw an extremely bright child behaving extremely badly and assumed that she was trying to manipulate them in some way.

The children born today have a better chance at life than I did. We know about asperger's now. Those children are getting properly diagnosed. It is my deepest wish for them all that they get to live in a better world where people understand their struggles better and make more effective efforts to help them launch into the world safely and successfully.

I wish the best for you and your child! If you do decide to push your child out of the nest and you learn that they are homeless or eating garbage or having sex with strangers to survive, please, please, please take them back in, love them, help them. Don't assume that they will sort it all out on their own eventually. It is only pure, dumb luck that kept me from being some mortality statistic on some piece of paper in some dusty file cabinet. Don't trust your child to that same dumb luck. Thank you.


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25 Nov 2012, 9:09 am

Was he trained for independent life? Did he receive proper therapy? If he was not trained or received therapy of any sort, how do you expect that he will be able to live an independent life? My Aspie daughter is 12, her Aspergers is mild, and we have being training her for independent life since last year. Why? Because training them for anything takes TIME, lots of time. And they fail to assume things or figure things out for themselves like NTs do. So thing about those things before getting ballistic with your son/daughter. Think about how much of his/her incapability to live on her/his own is your own fault. I would recommend, instead of trying to punish (which almost never works), trying to solve the problem.



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25 Nov 2012, 10:41 am

I think you have to take the 30% rule into account -- kids with ASD or ADHD tend to be about 30% or so behind their typically developing peers in maturity, self-control, and self-help skills. For our DS7, we are planning that he may need to live at home until he is at least 24, at which point the 30% rule says he would have the maturity of a 16 year old. (We'll adjust plans as he gets older according to where he really is at.) So perhaps after high school he will live at home and go to community college, online university, or trade school.

Instead of kicking him out, can you take a detailed look at what skills he has and what skills he is lacking, and come up with a plan to address them?



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25 Nov 2012, 4:01 pm

Great answer. Wish I could have been there to help.

Sparrowrose wrote:
I know you were asking for responses from parents, but I thought I'd chime in as an autistic kid.

I'm 45 years old and was diagnosed with asperger's in 2001 at the age of 34.

My mother practiced "tough love" with me, which included pushing me out of her house. The only time I was allowed to return was when I was pregnant and homeless but she made it clear that I was an imposition and not to stay. She handed me a flat of ramen noodles, helped me apply for disability, and got me out of the house as soon as the money came through.

My 20s were spent in and out of homelessness. I couldn't hold on to a job. I had job after job and worked hard, showe dup on time, and am very bright but would always end up getting "let go" after a few weeks. I have slept in the park, on loading docks, in stalls of public bathrooms, and propped behind books in the public library. I have eaten at soup kitchens, tins of sardines carried around in a rucksack, out of dumpsters, leftovers people walked away from at tables in outdoor cafés, bread stolen off delivery trucks (I have celiac, by the way) and food I've begged from people or food bought with money I've begged from people.

I've done things that were illegal or shameful, just to survive. Tough love didn't make me "shape up," it just left me floundering alone without the tools I needed to survive.

I can't tell anyone how to raise their child, but I'd like people to remember my life when they think about how to deal with their child. If a child is floundering, no amount of "throwing them in the deep end" is going to teach them to swim on their own.

My life was so hard because I was undiagnosed so teachers, parents, and psychiatrists were left confused and forced to come up with their own explanations for my behavior. Most often, those explanations involved me being "bad" or "wilfull." I don't think I was either of those things. I began to be brought to professionals at age 5 -- my difficulties were clear from very early on -- but since I was born in 1967, I was 27 years old before asperger's even entered the DSM. Plus, I am profoundly gifted so I think I can forgive all those people in my past who saw an extremely bright child behaving extremely badly and assumed that she was trying to manipulate them in some way.

The children born today have a better chance at life than I did. We know about asperger's now. Those children are getting properly diagnosed. It is my deepest wish for them all that they get to live in a better world where people understand their struggles better and make more effective efforts to help them launch into the world safely and successfully.

I wish the best for you and your child! If you do decide to push your child out of the nest and you learn that they are homeless or eating garbage or having sex with strangers to survive, please, please, please take them back in, love them, help them. Don't assume that they will sort it all out on their own eventually. It is only pure, dumb luck that kept me from being some mortality statistic on some piece of paper in some dusty file cabinet. Don't trust your child to that same dumb luck. Thank you.



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25 Nov 2012, 5:28 pm

Ilka wrote:
Was he trained for independent life? Did he receive proper therapy? If he was not trained or received therapy of any sort, how do you expect that he will be able to live an independent life? My Aspie daughter is 12, her Aspergers is mild, and we have being training her for independent life since last year. Why? Because training them for anything takes TIME, lots of time. And they fail to assume things or figure things out for themselves like NTs do. So thing about those things before getting ballistic with your son/daughter. Think about how much of his/her incapability to live on her/his own is your own fault. I would recommend, instead of trying to punish (which almost never works), trying to solve the problem.


i enjoy this response. the responder who mentioned social delay is onto something as well.

i wanted to talk about the societal aspect of this issue though, rather than the interpersonal.

'failure to launch' means that someone is not conforming to social norms in regards to what is age appropriate. with the reciprocity not functioning as highly in aspies as it is in other people, social norms may not be as important (the way we dress, what jobs we 'should have,' when we should tire of games and put them away, all sorts of stuff).

theres a lot of people (hipsters, lgbtq folks, anarchists, libertarian farmers, for example and of course the list goes on) that so not conform to social norms because they think (for various reasons) that there is a better way to live than how society tells them to live. for crying out loud, in some other cultures, the children never move out of the house!

so i am wondering if you are thinking you would live a better life if your kid were out on their own or if your kid thinks that they would live a better life if they were on their own (or a combination of both). if the answer is 'yes,' then this is a worthy thread. but if youre considering this issue because of what is socially normal, well then i would advise you to tell society to go f*ck itself and stop subconsciously informing your decisions.

i live on my own now, but inter-dependancy is way healthier for me. when i first moved out, i lived in a 'family' of my friends for years and i hope to again one day. here in detroit, youre considered 'dysfunctional' if youre not 'self-sufficient.' its a load of garbage, an idea that is probably in the pages of some dystopian novel.



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25 Nov 2012, 8:01 pm

Sparrowrose wrote:
I began to be brought to professionals at age 5 -- my difficulties were clear from very early on -- but since I was born in 1967, I was 27 years old before asperger's even entered the DSM. Plus, I am profoundly gifted so I think I can forgive all those people in my past who saw an extremely bright child behaving extremely badly and assumed that she was trying to manipulate them in some way.


This date marker is extremely helpful for me - thank you. So sorry you had a hard time - I had the opposite experience in terms of leaving; I was so smothered at home (not because I was disabled, but because my mother in particular had antique ideas about women in general and me in particular) so I ran away from home in my twenties. The end result was not that different: I was wildly unprepared to take care of myself even though I left with the assistance of a therapist - and although I never became on-the-street homeless, I did live on the edge and other people's couches for quite a while. I was very easy to take advantage of, and that happened often, in some very, very serious and damaging ways.

That being said, there is no reason why you can't expect everything possible from your AS child. You don't have to have a household centered entirely around them, you can set boundaries and expectations. If an adult is going to live with their parents, they should do so with the understanding that they have certain responsibilities and not as many freedoms.

Can your child hold a part-time job? If so, give him "real-life training wheels," treat him a bit like a roommate: sit down and write up a family contract asking for a percentage of the utilities he uses, and a portion of your mortgage, gas and food as a percentage of his income (my plan for my own son, if this happens, is to put that money aside in a savings account, in case he needs a down payment for his own home someday.) I did have a roommate who helped me through for a while in this way.

If not, how are his financial needs being met - do you buy all his entertainment, clothes, etc? You can explain that those things come at a price - that he will get the bare minimum but can earn more freedoms by taking over some of the household responsibilities as he is able. I think your ultimate goal should be to find a respectful way to set boundaries and make sure your child is doing what they are capable of (and it will take some trial and error to figure out what that actually is, so be prepared for some give and take - remember, this "hidden disability" is a very real thing.) I would add I haven't lived this yet - but I am guessing I'd have preferred this way.

Basically, give your child the tools to be as independent as he is able to be - while keeping in mind that many, many NT people are less independent than we think of them as being. Lastly, find out if there are services available to help you and your child; he may qualify for support to live outside the home (Why is it that a person with AS with an aide to help them with household chores is "hopelessly dependent" and any other adult who hires household services is "saving valuable time?")



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26 Nov 2012, 10:23 am

Hi, I am answering with ideals I think.

My cousin has Aspergers but was not diagnosed until he was in his early 20s (despite my aunt and uncle taking him to doctors multiple times from the time he was less than 2 years old).

He qualifies for SSI (supplemental income) now and a job training coach. The job training coach has not been super helpful.

Ideally now he would have had an IEP in high school and then transitioned from there to having SSI and a job training coach.

I don't think that tough love is recommended. My cousin is impaired in some areas and needs extra support. He is not a lazy slacker.

I totally understand your question though. My aunt and uncle tried a lot of "sink or swim" things with him as they were being told that my cousin was only young for his age, they were not given good information. Well -- thank God they were able to get some good information at last.

It is hard for some relatives to understand, though, b/c my cousin has some real strengths. They do not understand that he has some strengths and then some weaknesses. They think it is not possible to have his strengths and then not be able to do the "easy" things that he struggles with. Well -- if that is what they think they will find "proof" of it. Whatever.

I think he is doing his very best and would love to be independent. He is working to get there. He did seem to give up a little a couple of years ago and it turned out he had gotten depressed and did very well with medication. But who wouldn't be depressed, if they were able to do some things very well but still need help with "basic living" things? But more recently he is very gracious and doing very well I think. He is also able to help my aunt and uncle in some ways, so it is not just a one-sided thing.



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26 Nov 2012, 10:52 am

This is a response to Ilka.

My cousin was diagnosed very late and he was diagnosed with Aspergers. My son just got diagnosed with autism. Going through the evaluation -- I think my cousin would be diagnosed with autism if he was a child now. He had a lot more signs than my son has, but my son has a language delay and my cousin did not have a language delay.

As a response to the OP, I agree.

But my aunt and uncle are also criticized for not having properly trained my cousin. He has got a really hard time in a couple of areas and it takes years. But it is not b/c they have done something wrong that he is not already able to do all these living skills things. He is smart, too!

So I think it is wrong to criticize parents if their child is not performing well in some certain areas, and assume the parents have not been working on it. It is as bad as blaming the child in a way.

But if the parents are being jerks then that is different.

What I would say -- now people are likely to know that their kids are not doing things on purpose, and so they are less likely to act like jerks. Now Aspergers is well-known enough that someone is likely to mention it or the doctor might know what it is. Instead of not know -- as literally happened with my aunt and uncle.

I also think it is very hard to empathize with a parent of an adult who did not have any resources but needed them, if you do not know any one in that situation.

But also, I think that if my cousin is not doing as well at, say, buying/preparing food or keeping track of money, than another person, I think it can mean that he is more impaired for those skills just as how he is, and not b/c he is doing something wrong or my aunt and uncle are doing something wrong.



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26 Nov 2012, 5:50 pm

Realizing that this subject comes up every so often, I collected some posts on the Parenting Index http://www.wrongplanet.net/postp5054793.html#5054793



Lesley1978
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26 Nov 2012, 7:05 pm

Thanks for providing that. I am very interested wrt my cousin.



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26 Nov 2012, 7:17 pm

I can't speak for conventional wisdom beyond this forum because I only know the conventional wisdom we've developed here: AS children, teens and young adults aren't likely to conform to societies ideas of what levels of independence should be accomplished when, so it is best if parents just throw all ideas of timing out of the window and look to their unique child. For the most part, we're assuming the differences are in timing, not permanent, although some ASD individuals may never be able to live independently. Until you get there, you don't know.

No one on this forum would advocate for tough love, throw them out. There will be times to push and times to lay down hard and fast rules and conditions, but you always have to be aware that your child might not be able to do what you think he or she should be able to do, and you might have to adjust accordingly. But the opposite can also be true: never assume permanent limits for your child, either, least you hold them back inappropriately.

It always comes back to the same thing: know your child.


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27 Nov 2012, 7:16 am

I think due to a combination of factors, finding work is harder for young people in this economy than it was for young people 30 years ago-even the NT ones-and aspects of the job market alienate young people on the spectrum, making them have to work against their autism than with it. Due to falling standards of living and a more competitive job market, there is an overall trend of young people, including NTs, living with parents longer than in previous generations.

I'm 20, and in my parents' time, it was common for kids to work part time throughout high school. You didn't need experience or a degree to get into a basic job. That's changed. Nowadays, a lot of companies want someone with experience, and even if they don't specifically state they want someone with specific experience, any inexperienced student that applies is competing against hundreds of applicants who do have experience. And in this economy, there are less jobs for the people applying for them, so everything's more competitive. So it's a lot harder for a teenager nowadays to find part time work. This applies even to NT young people. And without the background of experience, it's harder to be hired for full time work after school.

The things that make it especially hard for people on the spectrum are the way jobs are advertised and what employers are looking for, and also the nature of hidden vacancies, which is where most of the jobs are.

First of all, when you look through job listings, over and over again, you see ads specifying "we want a fun loving people person!! !" "we want someone outgoing and full of enthusiasm!! !" "Do you love doing something different every day and working with lots of people? Apply today!" There seems to be one particular sort of person that is in demand by employers, and it's often difficult for people with autism to be bubbly, outgoing and enjoy constant change. When an autistic person looks through ad after ad asking for someone with lots of bold energy who can chat to anyone, it can get really discouraging. In the job market, especially for graduate positions, there is very little appreciation for more low-key, introverted people-let alone people with social and processing difficulties caused by autism.

And also, very few jobs are ever advertised at all. Apparently, over 70% are hidden. This means that the jobseeker has to actively search them out. This means cold calling companies and asking to speak to the person in charge of hiring. This can be a daunting prospect for autistic people.

So basically, the current job market really sucks for young people with autism. Given the unique challenges of the economy and the job market, I don't think it's at all surprising for someone with autism to not be fully independent until sometime into their twenties. I'm really sorry for this huge novel.



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27 Nov 2012, 8:42 am

Thanks for your post - it does point up something important to those of us with kids who haven't reached this point yet, though: we can't expect our kids to get a job as teenagers, but there are all kinds of volunteer situations that look and act like jobs. I think it's important to have a plan for teenagers to get involved in something like that, even if we have to pay them ourselves to get them to do it (I think I can talk DS into doing it, but in case he doesn't understand the esoteric rewards of volunteering, I know he understands cash.)

For instance, I know our local dog shelter relies on volunteers to walk their dogs on a regular schedule (they require that volunteers be the age of employment) and I plan to have DS do that when he gets to that age. He already knows how to do it (he does it for our dog,) he loves animals in general and dogs in particular...and he can probably figure out how to make a little money at it after a while, but what he will need to learn is the showing up and doing it part. The good news is that having a space of time where someone can vouch that you showed up and did it is something employers look for - they don't care if you were paid or not.