Why is it that young adults with Asperger’s often struggle when it is time to launch into adulthood and independent living? Is it due to their difficulties in the social world? Is it due to their thinking style? Is it due to their challenges with day to day independent living skills? I believe that it is a combination of all three.
Life is pretty structured, planned out, and predictable when you are a child. You live with your parents who take care of all of your basic needs including housing, food, clothing, paying bills, doing laundry, and washing dishes. You get up and go to school every morning, come home and do your homework, eat dinner, and go to sleep. You are surrounded by a group of peers that either your parents have selected for you or you interact with because you go to the same school, live in the same neighborhood, belong to the same club or play on the same sports team. Until you finish high school, there aren’t a lot of decisions to be made.
However, once you approach the end of high school and especially once you graduate there is this big question that every young adult faces which is: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?? For any young adult, this question can be challenging, confusing and overwhelming but for young adults with Asperger’s, this can be the question that stops them in their tracks.
Young adults with Asperger’s are often challenged in social situations. They tend to miss social cues, have difficulty initiating and maintaining conversations, and often present as awkward. How do young adults with these challenges all a sudden go out in the world and make friends on their own? It is not so uncommon for young adults with Asperger’s to begin isolating at this stage of life often through excessive computer use where they can escape face-to-face social interactions while still trying to socialize to some degree. As humans, we all desire relationships and connections with others, so without a strong sense of social support, taking that next step in life can be very lonely and scary.
The thinking style of many young adults with Asperger’s presents in a very rigid, black and white way. They tend to view the world as if there are only two possible options. While this is often an attempt to bind and manage anxiety, it doesn’t seem to fit in a world where possibilities are endless. How does a young adult with Asperger’s know how to choose the next step in their life when they are used to following a predetermined path that was chosen for them? And how do they make a decision when there are so many options and no right or wrong choice? This is another reason why we often see young adults with Asperger’s become stuck or have difficulty launching at this point in their lives.
One component of becoming an adult is independent living. This includes all of the day-to-day chores and responsibilities that one takes on in order to function and manage on his/her own. For many young adults with Asperger’s, these tasks can be overwhelming. Some common challenges are time management and organization. If you struggle in these areas, how do you pay bills on time, show up to scheduled appointments when you are responsible for getting yourself there, and maintain a living environment that is clean and organized? And who teaches you basic self-care skills like cooking, cleaning, personal hygiene, and budgeting? Without the knowledge or support in these areas, many young adults with Asperger’s will struggle to live independently adding more anxiety and feelings of “stuckness.”
So, rather than asking why so many young adults with Asperger’s experience “failure to launch,” let’s ask how we can help them get unstuck and move forward with their lives. Let’s help them build social skills so that they can create a support social network of peers in which they feel accepted. Let’s challenge their black and white thinking and help them explore various options so that rather than feeling scared and anxious, they can feel excited about all of the possibilities out there. Let’s teach them day-to-day living skills and continue to support them so that they can live on their own and feel a sense of pride and self-sufficiency.
Let’s understand and anticipate the challenges that young adults with Asperger’s face so that we can help them early on to prepare them for that million dollar question of WHAT DO I WANT TO DO WITH THE REST OF MY LIFE??
by Alisa Foreman, MFT
Associate Program Director
For more information on OPI residential programs and our measures to help reduce Failure to Launch obstacles for young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome, call us at (888) 814-5985 or click HERE to submit an online form. We’ll be in touch promptly.