We made it! The end of another successful school year. The halls at Oak Bridge Academy are buzzing with stories of summer plans, vacations, and some well-deserved relaxation. However, as a Life Skills Instructor/Behaviour Therapist and a mother of 4 children, 2 of whom are now adults with ASD, I strongly encourage parents to continue practicing Life Skills throughout the summer at home and in the community. Life skills do not get a summer break!
Life Skills such as doing laundry, washing dishes, knowing how to cook, etc., are all essential skills for our children to learn to have independence. Independence is important because it promotes pride and feeling good about oneself. In my home, we started to teach these skills at a very young age and as a result, my oldest daughter lives with a couple of roommates, works a full-time job, and has dreams of returning to college someday. ASD does not hinder these things, however, we must present our children with the tools to navigate through life.
My true passion, and the reason I came back to the field of behaviour analysis after being in sales and recruitment for 17 years, is to encourage my students to advocate for themselves and to teach them the skills that will protect them from being vulnerable in the world. Why this vulnerability? Well, I have learned that many people with ASD are trusting and predictable, they feel safe in the world and what you see is what you get. The world, on the other hand, is filled with social challenges, threats, unpredictability, and can be very obscure. Enter vulnerability. A real eye-opener for me was when my two eldest started working part-time jobs. They were earning and saving their own money as they were taught, and having a sense of independence because they had their own debit card. Then, as my husband and I were doing our weekly bank account cheques we noticed the money was slowly starting to disappear from their accounts. They had fallen victim to peers and social media requesting money for empty promises, and because they were so trusting, they handed the money over and were emotionally distraught when they realized they had been taken advantage of. This also continued into adulthood when they started full-time jobs. My daughter rewarded a couple of ex-boyfriends with over $5000, and my son lost $13,000 to an internet scammer that told him he was selling him a successful YouTube channel. These losses lead to depression, anxiety, anger, and outbursts, and in a couple of these situations, the police had to get involved. I know they will continue to do this again and again, to fit in, to be accepted, and to be valued.
So, how can we support our children and protect them from this vulnerability? Unfortunately, we cannot keep them in a bubble and they will have to go out in the world and make the same mistakes my children did, but we can give them some tools to protect themselves.
BASIC MONEY SKILLS:
If you are going to focus on any Life Skills this summer, Stranger Danger and Basic Money Skills are the ones to target. These skills will take lots of repetition at home and when they return to school in September. But I can assure you these are the true skills our children need to face our society, and I will continue to dedicate my passion to teaching them these skills.
Have a relaxing and safe summer!