The simple answer to this question is yes, a person with autism spectrum disorder can live independently as an adult. However, not all individuals achieve the same level of independence. The focus of intervention services is to help the individual achieve their highest possible level of independence, and that won’t look the same for everyone.
Because ASD is variable (symptoms are different in each person), treatment plans should be individualized and focused on each person’s passions, interests, and skillsets. People with ASD can develop skills that will help them tremendously in navigating everyday life and meeting goals.
There are various degrees and stages of independence. Depending on how early your family member was diagnosed and began treatment, you should treat the journey to independence as just that – a journey. It won’t happen overnight; it will take patience and perseverance to help your family member become more independent.
Different Degrees of Independence
First, it’s important to understand that a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder does not mean that your child or family member will not be able to date, make friends, attend college, get married, become a parent, or have a satisfying career. People with ASD do these things and more every day. What an ASD diagnosis does mean is that your child or family member will progress differently than people without ASD.
Again, it’s not possible to provide a concrete answer of how long it will take your child or family member to develop certain independent living skills.
Some of the autism independent living skills include self-help and determination skills.
Here we refer to self-help and determination as the ability of individuals with ASD to be aware of themselves emotionally, physically, and cognitively to create and attain their goals. Individuals receive a new understanding of their personal strengths and weaknesses, which is integral to their development and ability to live independently.
Functional communication. For a person to live independently, they must be able to express desires, feelings, and concerns to those they live or interact with. Skills and tools that people with ASD can use their whole lives in building meaningful relationships include strong, lasting friendships, satisfying and supportive romantic relationships, and effective communication with employers or employees.
Reduction of problems. It can be extremely difficult for individuals with behaviour problems to live independently. They need skills to acknowledge and manage their emotions safely and consistently. Part of this can be achieved through communication, but it is also necessary to teach coping skills.
Data-driven and science-backed Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) techniques helps individuals with ASD control and move beyond disruptive and aggressive behaviors. We help individuals struggling with self-injurious actions, distress, and emotional regulation so they can enjoy a higher quality of life.
Domestic and personal care. One of the major factors in determining if an individual with ASD will be able to live independently is their ability to perform personal and home-related tasks such as:
- Dressing and undressing
- Choosing clothes for weather and event
- Personal hygiene practices, including brushing hair, shaving, applying makeup, showering, menstrual care, etc.
- Washing clothes
- Planning and preparing meals
- Yard care.
Because limited personal care practices can lead to job exclusion or the feeling of being unaccepted by peers, it’s imperative that individuals with ASD receive tools they can use to perform these daily tasks. Indiana University’s Adolescent Autonomy Checklist is a useful resource for making progress with domestic and personal care responsibilities.
Career path and employment. Individuals with ASD can learn skills that help them find and keep a job. Identifying their strengths is helpful for achieving their goal of having a job and being able to financially support themselves.
They develop develop communication abilities, self-care practices, and emotional regulation techniques that will help the individual with ASD succeed in their chosen career field.
Money management. To achieve security and independence in finances, individuals with ASD must learn how to manage a bank account, use credit and debit cards, and balance a checkbook.
Before your child or family member moves away from home, sit down with them and make a list of expenses they’ll have: rent, groceries, medicine, personal items, and other expenses. You can highlight or visually distinguish the items that they’ll need to pay regularly.