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How I'm Teaching My 14-Year-Old Son With Autism About Money

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Editor's Note

This story has been published with permission from the author’s son.

Did you get an allowance growing up? If you are parenting a child or adult with autism, do you give them an allowance? I truly didn’t even think about giving my son, Dominic, an allowance or paying him for his chores until about a year or so ago when Dominic’s private speech therapist suggested it. My first thought was, “Will he understand the concept of earning money for chores?”

Dominic struggles with the concept of money — it’s worth and how much something costs — so getting paid to do chores was the perfect way for him to continue to learn. We kept a chart with the date, his chore and the amount given (we came up with $2.00). I also kept a clear mason jar on the kitchen counter and every time he did his chore,  he got $2.00 and he put it in the jar. That way, he could see the money as it accumulated. I also printed out a picture of the Lego kit he was working for from the Target website and attached it to his allowance sheet. Dominic is a visual learner, so seeing the money in the jar and having his sheet where we kept track of the money was very helpful for him.

Just a few days ago, he had enough money saved up to get the Lego kit from the Target. After his private speech therapy session yesterday, we drove over and found it on the shelf.  Dominic carried the Lego kit and the $30.00 he had earned up to the front of the store and we stood in line. When it was our turn, he put the Lego kit on the conveyor belt and handed the money to the cashier. I told the cashier Dominic earned the money and the cashier thought that was pretty cool.

Take a guess what my son did as soon as we got home?

Dominic watches three shows every evening, the “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt,”  “Wheel of  Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” When it was time for me to turn on the television, around 6:30 p.m., I said, “Dominic, it’s time for Lester Holt!” He shook his head no. I then said, “Do you want to keep working on the Lego kit and then put on ‘Wheel of Fortune’ at 7?” His response was, “Yes!” It takes something really special for him to deviate from his nighttime television viewing.

Dominic learned so much from earning his own money. First, he had to learn to be patient (it took six months to earn enough money to get the Lego kit). Second, he learned if you work hard, you get paid. Lastly, he learned that when you get paid, you can use that money to buy something you really want!

Originally published: June 20, 2019
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