A mom at an airport asked me for advice on her live-at-home 30-year-old Asperger’s son; What could he do for an income? Where could she go for help?
Isn’t that a deep fear? That your brainy, quirky, blunt, socially awkward kid will grow up to find that he doesn’t fit in any career? That you will be responsible for him forever?
I can only speak for my guy, but I’m sure the same way on surveys that I represent several hundred thousand other women like me, he represents several hundred thousand kids like him! And he is going to do fine because we have access to the internet, support systems, and a world beginning to capitalize on his strengths and not penalize him for being different.
But he IS different and it’s not going to be a shoe in. There are three key things to do NOW, start TODAY, regardless of your child’s age, that will make a critical difference in his or her future.
3 CRITICAL THINGS TO DO
• Take a pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard) and start noting what he’s good at. Start with activities and then tease out strengths. I know of one boy with Asperger’s, we’ll call him Tommy, who can spend 3 hours weeding a rock garden! His neurotypical sibling would have thrown in the dandelion puller after 10 minutes! This is like the mother lode! This is a huge magnifying glass into this child’s strengths! Persistence, attention to detail, ability to focus on repetitive tasks, pride in work, sticktoitiveness (is that a word?), goal oriented, task completer. If you can’t see the strengths, at least note the activity and then talk about it with teachers, neighbors, friends, pastors, someone who can tease out the valuable gems. The earlier you start, the easier it will be to see the pattern.
• Discuss their strengths with them. Praise them, point out the value in their strengths. Tommy should be flying high after his weeding chore. His mom should point out a couple of the strengths he’s good at. Dive into his feelings and his experience. Try to get him to put words to his feelings. How did he feel at the beginning of the task? Middle? End? Why did he finish? He is extraordinary!
• Use positive reinforcement to train your kids to do what you want. We love Khan Academy activites for the summer and I want him to do at least three sections a day. BUT if he only does one section, I thank my Aspie son and praise him for working on his super duper brain! Won’t he be more likely to do more tomorrow than if I nag him for not doing enough?
My Asperger’s child is brilliant. He’s brilliant in a variety of ways. And there’s no one better than me to help him recognize, identify, and quantify the skills he has to be successful!