Star Ford

Essays on lots of things since 1989.

Getting to independence

on 2011 August 16

That there are several paths from living with your parents to independence. I visualize it like a canyon and you’re on one ledge and have to jump the chasm to the other ledge. For a lot of people, they are getting support from parents now, and they might be able to visualize having a job and supporting themselves some day, but they can’t eaily see the path from here to there. For autistic young people, the problem is compounded because some of the typical assumptions about this transition may not work as well for us.

Looking across the chasm, wondering how will I ever become independent.

So, I made some pictures to represent three possible paths. The first path is to go down and climb up the other side by working jobs starting with babysitting, mowing lawns, McDonalds, and so on. You might live in a crummy apartment shared with other people and make minimum wage, but you eventually climb the ladder and build skills and a resume, and move up. That concept is shown here:

Path #1: Starting with babysitting and gradually working up to more.

The climbing strategy works for a lot of people, but perhaps not many autistic people, because we often can’t do those kind of jobs very well, even if we can do more advanced jobs well. For example, someone might be able to do economic modeling, but could not wait tables. For that sort of person, the climbing strategy is not as realistic.

The second path is to have the parents or government extend a board out so you can go more straight across. In that strategy, you either get protected work (such as being supported by a disability agency) or work in a relative’s business or some setting where the employer gives you preferential treatment, training, and more second chances. With that support, you grow into it. So you are transitioned and supported the whole time. That is shown in the image below. The break in the bridge shows that half is supported by the parents gradually letting go, and the other half is supported by the employer, gradually giving more support.

 

Path #2: Bridging across with support from both sides.

The bridging strategy works for a lot of people who have a common plan with their parents, but for those whose parents disagree about basic matters involving independence, they will keep throwing conditions into the process and you won’t be able to cross. That is, you might not be able to get any real authority to make decisions, because the parents are keeping all the authority for themselves as a condition of their support.

The third path is to build a metaphorical tower on the parents side, so that you can jump across from a higher position. An example of this strategy is going to graduate school and/or pursuing a special interest until you become an expert and can land a specialized job as the first employment. The tower model is shown here:

 

Path #3: Starting from a higher position and making the jump with credentials.

The tower strategy allows you to skip over all the low-level work like mowing lawns and watressing but still be able to make a clean break from the parents, so that there are no fuzzy lines of authority over your life. This last strategy appears to be more rarely used by people in general, but seems highly applicable to autistic people. Even if you aren’t very acedemically inclined, you could develop a base of specialized knowledge and skills that would be very valuable in a specific setting.

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