The answers to these questions depend on resources in your area and your child’s skills and capabilities. Each person with autism faces different challenges and symptoms, as well as different strengths. An occupational therapist can work one-on-one with your family and your child to find the right solutions for independence.
Autism, Adulthood, and Independent Living
A person with autism can live independently. However, based on the person’s skills and capabilities, the person’s level of independence may look different. Some individuals may be able to live in their own home without any support. Another individual may require home and community support for independent living. The goal is to help the person achieve the highest level of independence possible to create a path for a fulfilling life.
A person with autism can attend college, find a job, pursue a career, make friends, find love, and live independently. There are many programs to help an autistic person achieve their goals. Occupational therapists can help individuals with autism develop the skills for independent living. Occupational therapists can help design the right environment for the individual’s success. For example, the occupational therapist can work with an employer to implement the right modifications for job success. Or the occupational therapist can help families find housing with the right amount of support to maximize the individual's success.
Housing Options for Autistic Adults
Moving out of the parent’s home can be both exciting, confusing, and anxiety producing. Living on one’s own means independence and freedom. However, independence also means financial and personal responsibility. For individuals with autism, the solutions for independent living will vary based on the individual's skills, capabilities and financial resources.
Housing options include:
- Adult foster care: Individuals with disabilities can live with other families through adult foster care. The state regulates these settings and services are paid with family income or public benefits, such as Social Security Disability Income (SSDI).
- Group homes: Group homes are community-based settings with support staff to help with cooking and medication management. Group homes are regulated by the state and can be financed with public benefits, such as SSDI.
- Supervised or Supportive Living: Home settings that offer support based on the individual’s needs. Support can vary from assistance with meal preparation and medication management to help with transportation. Supportive living can be financed with personal income, Medicaid, or SSDI.
- Independent living: Some adults with autism can live independently and may receive support from family and friends. Adults may live with roommates to offset costs or receive financial assistance from the government.
Independent Living Skills for Autistic Adults
People with autism have varying levels of skills and abilities. A customized approach can help a person develop the skills needed to become as independent as possible. Core independent living skills include:
- Self-help skills (bathing, dressing, hygiene, grooming)
- Self-awareness skills (learning how to behave in different settings, personal safety)
- Communication skills (how to converse, job-related communication skills, communication with friends)
- Problem-Solving skills (finding healthcare services, requesting reasonable accommodations at work, asking for help)
- Money management and budgeting (developing a budget, meeting expenses, saving money)
- Employment skills (soft skills, work ethic, managing behavior on the job)
Developing the core skills for daily living can help a person with autism to attain an income to live independently, move into their own place, and develop a network of friends. If the person cannot work full time, there are government programs, such as SSDI, to supplement income. Finding the right job setting or career to match the individual’s skills and capabilities will support future employment success. Developing home living skills, such as money management, cooking and nutrition, and self-care skills are important components of helping a person with autism live independently.
How Occupational Therapy Can Help
Independent living will look different for each person with autism. Parents and families do not have to tackle the transition to adulthood alone. Occupational therapists are trained to help any individual thrive as an independent adult. Occupational therapists are also trained to change the living environment or job setting to support independence.