All Articles Financial Resources For Adults With Autism To venture out into the world as an independent adult is daunting for anyone at first. However, for individuals with autism, they face unique challenges that aren’t generally a concern for those without this developmental disorder. Although there are a number of areas to consider, such as employment, financial planning is a key area of focus for many friends and family members aiming to support their loved one with autism. Whether your loved one is planning on moving out or has already made this transition, financial issues may continue to appear, leaving you concerned and overwhelmed. Understanding Issues Surrounding Autism and Saving Money Money management is an area of concern for millions across the United States and the globe. There’s no denying that money management and financial planning are skills. However, for individuals with autism, these skills are often much harder to learn than they are for the general population — and it’s not due to a lack of understanding. As reported in one key study, after interviewing youth with autism (aged 16-25), it was found that the majority not only recognized that financial understanding is an essential component of being an independent adult, but that they also felt frustrated with their money management skillset. Another study found that money is a significant barrier and source of anxiety among individuals with autism. Although each case is unique, many people with autism tend to spend money on things they want, like video games, movies, or anything else that they enjoy collecting. If they are comfortable, they may also spend a lot of money eating out, leaving little money for important things, like rent and bills. When it comes to budgeting, bank accounts, and saving, it can all be a bit overwhelming — especially if someone with autism gets into debt. That is why it’s imperative that financial support for adults with autism is available. Money Management Isn’t Typically a Priority for Children with Autism — Which Can Have Lasting Effects Depending on where a child with autism falls on the spectrum, therapy in the early years can be highly specific. For years, children attend therapy in order to improve reading and verbal literacy, strengthen social skills, and work on problematic behaviors. For the majority of children, money isn’t a topic of conversation that’s ever mentioned. By the time an individual transitions to young adulthood, and begins planning for their independence, this is an area that tends to be underdeveloped. Banking, for instance, can be incredibly confusing and overwhelming. However, there are now some autism-friendly branches that aim to make this experience easier and less chaotic for those in need. To Better Prepare for Independence, Adults with Autism Require a Plan and Support A lack of financial understanding can cause a significant gap, creating a barrier in terms of becoming independent. For those with autism, they often require a plan and your ongoing support, as well as tools they can leverage. The goal is to start as soon as possible. The following suggestions are great financial resources for adults with autism and help guide you and your loved one along your unique journey. Be sure to adapt key steps based on personal needs, preferences, skill sets, and behaviors. Step one: Start now Whether your loved one with autism is twelve or thirty, now is the time to start discussing the role that money plays. Whenever possible, put this into practice. For example, if you need to run an errand, encourage your loved one to pay for small amounts at the grocery store or gas station. To do so, choose stores where your loved one feels comfortable and has already met the cashier. When you visit stores, remain mindful of what triggers your loved one from a sensory perspective. Tip: An allowance in exchange for paid chores is often a benefit. Once your loved one has saved enough money from their chores, you can set up a bank account for them to become familiar with in terms of the process and financial terminology. Step two: Discuss peer pressure Many adults with autism are desperate to please others and fit in socially. In some cases, they may be manipulated into lending someone money or spending more than they can afford while out with someone who is willing to take advantage of them. The same is true when it comes to salespeople. Their main objective is to sell, which, unfortunately, may lead to untrustworthy misinterpretations. Read more: Social Skills Activities for Adults with Autism: What’s It All About? Tip: If you’re concerned that someone has taken advantage of your loved one, you may want to track and review receipts to better understand their purchases. This will be a good time to discuss the monetary value of items and how important budgeting is. Step three: Make a monthly budget and use visuals Each month, create a budget in the form of a checklist. Once a high-priority transaction has been made, check it off. Once spending is complete for that month, compare the planned amount vs what was actually spent. For example, you may have budgeted $50 for groceries during week one, but the actual amount spent was $67. Complete this step for each item on your checklist to see if there are any problem areas that really stand out. Tip: If possible, use visuals to better communicate. For example, pie charts can be helpful. A budget can also be created using a pyramid with different layers (i.e. essential items like rent, food, transportation may be one layer, whereas non-essential items like eating out can be represented as another. Additional Financial Resources for Adults with Autism Money management isn’t a skill that anyone learns overnight. It will be important to remain patient and adapt to your unique situation. Also, be sure to leverage as many beneficial resources and support systems as possible. While there are certainly great resources in your local community, here are some tools to help get you started. Autism Speaks Financial Planning App Financial Planning Tool Kit National Autistic Society – Online Training Module Do you require further support? If so, please check out the services offered by the Adult Autism Center of Lifetime Learning. Do not hesitate to reach out regarding any questions or concerns you may have — contact us today! Julia Hood, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, NCSPJulia Hood, Ph.D., BCBA-D is the Director of the Adult Autism Center of Lifetime Learning, the first center in Utah to provide individualized services for autistic adults. Here, she uses her rich background in psychology to empower clients. Julia has guided the Carmen B. Pingree Center, the center for assisting kids and adolescence, through critical stages of growth, including developing its architectural layout and clinical programs. Under her leadership, the center has also established local partnerships that allow clients to contribute to society. In the future, Julia envisions building more adult autism centers, as well as providing group home residential services. Julia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Westminster College, and a Masters and Ph.D. in School Psychology from the University of Utah.