Autism can create a range of difficulties, and these can be exacerbated by learning disabilities. These can take a variety of forms but may limit the ability of an adult with autism to live independently. That is why teaching life skills to adults with learning disabilities and autism is so important.
Autism and Learning Disabilities
Popular media often depicts people with autism as super-intelligent. Other stereotypes portray them as incapable of functioning in society. In truth, people with autism come at every level of intelligence, just as the signs of autism may manifest differently in every person. A learning disability, on the other hand, is a specific and diagnosable condition defined by poor intellectual functioning and significant adaptive deficits (adaptive skills are the ability to function in everyday life).
With that said, it is not uncommon for autism and learning disabilities to exist side by side, with both manifesting in childhood and existing as lifelong conditions. This comorbidity may present additional challenges for an adult with autism to master. There are no “cures” for autism or learning disabilities, so adults with these conditions need to learn the skills to manage them.
Adapting to New Situations
People with autism are often rigid in their thinking. They tend to like patterns and routines. People with learning disabilities also frequently struggle to adapt to their environment, especially when encountering new situations. This means that many of the usual adult milestones, such as moving into your own home or starting a new job, can prove particularly complicated.
Another common feature of autism and learning disabilities is difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships with others. This may include trouble with language and communication, such as interpreting body language or understanding common idioms. They may also struggle to express their thoughts and feelings. People with autism and learning disabilities can be easily influenced and more susceptible to peer pressure. In adulthood, these kinds of difficulties can impact everything from job interviews to shopping
A lower IQ can make it difficult for people with learning disabilities to master foundational skills such as reading, writing, and counting. So, an adult living independently may need help reading and following the directions on a packet of food for example or managing a budget.
Teaching Life Skills to Adults with Learning Disabilities
Living with autism and a learning disability does not mean someone cannot learn to thrive independently. It does, however, mean it is likely that additional support will be needed. The teaching of life skills to adults with learning disabilities may include household management, budget management, broader organization skills, nutrition plans and preparation, lessons in basic manners and etiquette, relationship building and basic functional skills in mathematics, reading, and writing. The important thing is to recognize the areas of difficulty and create a plan to help an adult improve their skills to become more independent.