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Can a person with autism spectrum disorder live an independent adult life?

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. With the scientifically-validated Applied Behavior Analysis treatments available at Therapeutic Pathways, your family member with ASD will 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.

At Therapeutic Pathways, our team of therapists and behavior technicians work to help those diagnosed with ASD reach their full potential. This means reaching different stages of independence over time. 

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. Our staff meets each client where they are and works closely with them to develop skills to keep your child safe and happy.

Some of the autism independent living skills that we encourage and develop at Therapeutic Pathways 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.

At Therapeutic Pathways, 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. Therapeutic Pathways provides the skills and tools that people with ASD can use their whole lives in building meaningful relationships. 

These 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 behavior 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. 

Through data-driven and science-backed Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) techniques, Therapeutic Pathways 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
  • Housekeeping
  • 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. Therapeutic Pathways provides resources for people with ASD to complete these tasks and function within their home environment.

Indiana University’s Adolescent Autonomy Checklist is a useful resource for making progress with domestic and personal care responsibilities.

Career path and employment. 

Through Therapeutic Pathway’s home, center, and community-based treatment, individuals with ASD will learn skills that help them find and keep a job. In identifying their strengths, our therapists will help your child or family member achieve their goal of having a job and being able to financially support themselves. 

We also develop the 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.

Independent Living for People With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Our behavior analysts and therapists at Therapeutic Pathways will help your child or family member develop the skills they’ll need to make decisions and take care of themselves, their space, and belongings, as well as interact with others at home or work.

Our focused intervention and structured groups meet the needs of every individual with ASD. We are dedicated to providing your child with the highest level of care. With Therapeutic Pathways, your child or family member is one step closer to meeting their goals with the assistance of our evidence-based autism treatment. To learn more about our programs and centers, call us at (209) 422-3280 or contact us here.