Category Archives: Transition to independent adult life



Free College Prep Workshop for Parents of Teens with Autism

Avoiding the Lows of Higher Education

Preparing your child for a successful college experience. A workshop for parents of young people with high-functioning autism.

Details and ticket information here.

Featured guest:  John Kelly, M.Ed., Academic Coordinator with College Living Experience-Costa Mesa.

See you there!

The Other Shoe Just Dropped…

I don’t know what was tougher—taking my son to his first part-time job or going to pick him up after being told that he was let go.

Welcome! You're hired. I don't think this job is for you, so we're letting you go. Goodbye.

Welcome! You’re hired. I don’t think this job is for you, so we’re letting you go. Goodbye.

For about a week and a half I got to taste—nay, sample—what it’s like to live in a life where the playing field was somewhat level for my kid. Yes, my son had a part-time summer job. But after just a week and a half [actually just four workdays, yikes!], the manager determined that it wasn’t working out, wasn’t a good fit and just seemed to be too overwhelming for my guy.

Well, it was awesome while it lasted. Even if it was just a measly four days. Four days?!

It’s been a whirlwind of firsts for this fella. First job interview, first job, first [and last] paycheck, first time taking direction from a supervisor, first time keeping track of work schedule, first time explaining that his training time wasn’t reflected in his paycheck, getting that all squared away and his first time turning in his apron and name badge. <Sigh.>

But I know my son, and I know it won’t be his last time. As my sister said, “He will persevere!” She knows him, too, because the other day he wrote out what he learned from this experience, a ton of information to carry to his next job.

Live and learn.

Live and learn.

He knows the type of environment he’d prefer. The length of shift he can handle. Questions to ask during the interview. Better questions to ask. And so much more. We live. We learn.

So even though he no longer holds the job, he emerged from it all holding a paycheck—a sizeable one, at that. And while he was bummed and ‘kinda sad’ about the turn of events, that special piece of paper took away much of the sting.

I’m now getting a taste, albeit bitter, of what it’s like to be in the ASD world facing the issue of employment. Getting a job and holding a job are two very different things.

Thank goodness that he tested for his driver’s license a few days after the whole job thing didn’t pan out. And he passed! He really needed that to balance out the blow he’d been dealt.  DL1

He frequently reminds me of his new bank balance. That’s another plus. And it makes me smile.



What Really Happened When I Drove Him to the Grocery Store

I don’t know what was tougher—the pitocin drip during my induced labor, sending my son off to school for the first time or what he asked me to do last week. All three reduced me to tears.

Last week I gave him a ride to his first part-time job. Talk about heart-wrenching! It sure reminded me of his first day of school when he walked in and didn’t look back. He did the same thing this time. He sat in the car with me for a few minutes. Yes, he was anxious and nervous. I said a few things (some quotes/lines from his favorite movies) to get him laughing, then he was off. “Okay, I’m going in.” He walked through the door and didn’t look back. His first day on the job was supposed to be a short four-hour shift, but someone called in sick and the manager asked if he could stay and work another shift. So he said yes. Is someone becoming flexible or what? 

He texted me once to tell me he was staying longer and that he’d need some food and once more to declare “I’m almost done! Tomorrow I’m sleeping in.”

Such an important milestone!

Such an important milestone!

When I picked him up, he sauntered out of the building and I immediately noticed that something was different. He’d changed. He wasn’t the unsure teen I dropped off hours earlier. He’d had a new experience so there was a bit of measured cockiness in his step. Like the Henry Hill character in “Goodfellas” the first time he got “pinched” and Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino) congratulated him declaring, “You broke your cherry!” 

He was carrying a huge jug of drinking water. He opened the car door, sighed and said, “Well, I made about $70 today! Tomorrow I’m not doing anything, mom. My legs and feet hurt from standing so long. This is good training for marching band. And I thought band practice was a bitch!” (He took a swig of water.) “Look, I bought this for two bucks! Well, it only cost $1.20, but I gave ‘em $2 for it.” Knowing how he is with money, I then asked if he got change. “Well yeah, of course, mom.”

Wow. Who knew that one day on the job would change him in so many positive ways?

Money is a great motivator!

Later on when I said good night to him I again told him how proud I was of him and in my moment of weakness I suggested he take his first paycheck and spend it on whatever he wanted. We had already had discussions about saving some, but I wanted to reward him. His response floored me. “No mom, I think I’ll save it.”  

I hope you all get to experience this exciting adventure with your kids when the time comes. As we tiptoe through the process, we learn new things every moment. From struggling with scheduling to self-advocating to attitude, transitions and more. What a treasure trove of life lessons each workday brings us. Please share your stories of your kids’ employment—we’d love to hear them!

What fun! What growth!

I’m feeling more and more like an empty-nester. What a weird feeling that is! Time to clean some closets.


He’s His Own Man—Already (No, mom’s not ready)

ARM recently returned from a family vacation and it was wonderful in so many ways. A change of scenery and some R&R is always heavenly; then we sprinkled in several growth opportunities for an overall spectacular time.

My teen possesses [an interesting mix of] anticipatory anxiety seasoned with a love of travel. Figure that one out. He’s a homebody who enjoys visiting new places, staying at hotels “with room service and a concierge” and ordering surf and turf in fine restaurants. What kind of human have I created?

As we approached our downtown hotel, my son excitedly announced that an AMC movie theater was two blocks away and a Barnes&Noble was one block away. The wheels started turning. And from that moment, the rest of the trip [heck, it had barely begun!] centered around AMC and B&N. For him, anyway.

I’m writing this after the fact, with valuable perspective. I so wish I’d had this perspective while on our trip because it probably would have helped calm at least some of his concerns and uneasiness as we went about our planned sightseeing itinerary. An itinerary that did not include AMC or B&N. [But all was not lost.]

After the first day, we realized he wasn’t as excited as we were about some of the plans we’d made—even though he was in on the decisions. And he kept asking when we could go to B&N. So one evening, my husband and I went across the street for a nightcap and our son went to the bookstore. Alone. Relax! The city has great police presence, he has a phone, it was just one block away, he’s almost 17, he stands 6’2”, do I have to continue?

I texted once, got no response and figured he was deeply immersed in some film book. As we left the restaurant, we decided to swing by the bookstore to peek in but it was 5 minutes until closing time. I called his phone, which went right to voicemail. I knew he’d turned it off. Oh great! Well, he wasn’t in the store so we were pretty sure he had returned to the room. In the meantime, we ran a quick errand and then went back to the hotel. At the door to our room I could hear the TV blasting, and I sighed a huge sigh!

We entered the room to find him sprawled out on the bed, arms behind his head, watching some world destruction movie. Phew! I was so relieved, so proud, so happy—yet so angry that he had turned off his phone. I tempered my anger by ducking into the bathroom first and getting a drink of water.

After I had re-grouped, I joined the guys and asked my son if he saw any good books at the store. After he told me about a new book that he absolutely needed, I mentioned that I tried to call him but his phone was off. Then he explained that he turned it off when he got back to the room. [Just as I suspected.] So I nonchalantly suggested, “Hey bud, when we’re away from home and you’re not with one of us, your phone must remain on until we’re back together again. Barely tearing his eyes from the TV, he uttered, “Oh, yeah, sure mom. Sorry about that.”

The next night he wanted to go to the movies, so building on the bookstore success, we said sure. He wanted to see it badly enough, so he decided it would be fine to go alone. Again. What a big guy! And what a relief to me because I did not want to go to a sci-fi movie on my vacation. I guess I just don’t roll that way. And besides, he needs to get used to doing things without his parents [at least that’s what our therapist advises].

So off he ventured, knowing the rules about his phone and general personal safety. He seems to really enjoy his independence, which is great. But all evening I kept looking at my watch. I guess I’m not totally enjoying his independence, but that’s probably pretty typical. As it started to rain I urged my husband to go and meet our son. Besides, it was very late. So his dad was there as he walked out of the theater. They strolled around a bit in the light Seattle rain, then returned to our hotel.

These adventures allowed my son to recharge and have energy to indulge us and cooperate with our sightseeing. I think the sweet liberation even put him in a better mood. A learning experience for all of us.

By the time we flew back home, got unpacked and finally settled at home following the trip, my son was somewhat changed—and so was I. He was doing more and more things without us, many times at our urging. But each time he was triumphant, and, well, success builds on success.

I feel like an empty-nester each evening that he goes out. This new experience is helping to grease the skids for when my husband and I are truly living in a nest that’s empty and echoing.


10 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Independent Life After High School | SKILL #5

We continue our discussion of independent living skills with the fifth item—the ability to go places on their own. Sure, they may need our chauffeuring services for a while, but the goal is for them to make this happen without us.
I remember going bowling with my son when he was little. Then taking him to the bowling alley and watching while he bowled with friends. Eventually I was able to drop him off at the door. Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight—in some cases it’ll take years until the child is ready to be cut loose–but plenty of preparation results in lasting benefits.
SKILL #5 – Teach your child to go places independently.
Certainly we don’t want our child to be afraid of exploring his or her own community. Starting when they’re young makes it easier so you can build on mastered skills. Gradually you’ll want to extend the distances. Trust me, your child will be ready for this far before you will be!
Child:             Get the mail, walk to a neighbor’s
                      house, etc.
Pre-teen:        Walk to and from school, a friend’s
                      house, park, library, post office, rec
                      center, etc.
Teen:             Learn how to use public
                            – Be familiar with routes and
                            – Know what the fare is and how
                               to pay it
                            – Know how to buy a pass and
                               request/use a transfer
                       Walk to a nearby store, library,
                       restaurant, cinema, after-school  
The ultimate goal is to create a comfort zone of mobility within the community for your child. Starting early will set you both on the path to success.




The self-reliant individual is a self-confident person. For more strategy ideas, contact me today at


10 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Independent Life After High School | SKILL #4

With graduation season not far off, we are reminded of the importance of transition to independent adult life. Think of the various things you do to organize your household—then figure out if your teen could do the same for him or herself.   Image
Our focus on transitions resumes with this fourth installment of ways to prepare your child for life after high school. How many times have you said, “I was going to do that today, but the day just got away from me…”? It’s no secret that keeping track of everything can be a challenge for the best of us. For sure, it’s a skill set that our kids have to be taught. It’s all about planning ahead. Helpful supports include calendars, planners, a system of reminders or alarms, or technology such as a Smartphone, iPad or the like. [It’s a fact: schedule use is one of the best predictors of employment success.]
So teach your child to design and maintain schedules for different areas of his life: school assignments, leisure time, chores, personal hygiene.
SKILL #4 – Teach your child to organize his time, tasks and things.
Some other things to think about:
You’ll be surprised how having an orderly life can reduce anxiety. Start teaching these skills now! For more tips or an individualized program, contact me today!