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Adjusting to Living on Your Own When You Have Autism

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A lot of individuals with autism, including me, want independence. They get tired of living with their parents. Some have parents who don’t want their child living with them after they turn 18 and graduate from high school. You also need to be ready to have independence for when the day comes and your parents aren’t here anymore. Not everyone with autism or any kind of disability qualifies for a group home. Going to live with a sibling is an idea, but it may depend on the kind of person your sibling is. They may not be able or want to to take care of you. You have to respect their wishes on that.

There are many factors that can make moving out of your parents’ house towards independence hard without a disability, let alone with one. Money is a huge thing. It could be the biggest thing. Living on your own isn’t free. Rent can be high, and if you’re buying a home, mortgage payments can be extremely high. However, owning a home when moving out for the first time is not very common. And if you can’t afford rent on your own, you’ll need to find a roommate. Your roommate(s) may or may not understand your autism, so be prepared for that. You’ll have to adjust to their lifestyles. Neighbors may or may not understand your autism. Whether they live in the same building or next door, you have to adjust to their lifestyles and personalities too. I did my first year of living on my own.

Food is very important. You have to eat, and that isn’t free either. Nobody can live on fast food; it may be quick, but it’s expensive and unhealthy. You’d be surprised how much eating at restaurants can add up to — I know from experience. So you’ll have to learn how to cook. I’m not saying you have to make a fancy meal every night or cook every night, but plan on cooking a few nights and having leftovers or quick stuff other nights. Unless you’re vegetarian or vegan, meat, dairy and eggs are important for protein. Processed meat isn’t good. Fruits and vegetables are very important for your diet — get plenty of those. Going out to eat once or twice a week is OK to treat yourself, but restaurant food costs more money.

After eating comes cleanup. Unless you want to be a slob, you have to clean all parts of the house or apartment. You need all kinds of cleaning supplies for different rooms and floors like tile, wood and carpet. Add laundry on top of it too — unless you want dirty clothes laying everywhere and laundry piling up. Getting into a cooking and cleaning system as well as laundry can be a tough challenge for someone with autism. It was for me. There were times I put things off because I felt tired and lazy. Sometimes I felt too physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted to do all of this. That was a hard adjustment. I took my medicine to calm me down. I would also have to remember to take my medicine without parents there to remind me.

Having a good job to support yourself is very important because that’s where the money comes from to pay for everything, including having a social life if you want one. If you qualify for disability and other government assistance, you can only earn so much to work and continue getting benefits. That was a struggle for me as I liked to do a lot and travel at the same time. If you only have disability, don’t work and live on your own, it can be hard to adjust to what you’re going to do all day with no job to go to.

Safety is important too. Finding a safe and affordable apartment is often not an easy task. You don’t want to live in a neighborhood where there’s lots of crime. Getting along with your landlord can be an adjustment. I never had landlord problems, but a lot of people do. You have to stay calm and it can be hard for many people with autism to do so.

I always wanted what most middle-class people have — a decent job, a house to live in, a car, and to travel I could afford it. I felt I was held back on that with my autism. I don’t need someone to take care of me, but I struggle with living on my own. These are some things I did struggle with, and you may too. However, moving out towards independence is an accomplishment for anyone!

Getty image by Lvist.

Originally published: August 1, 2018
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