In 2007 I established one of the first multi-disciplinary clinical programs specifically designed to support a transition to independence for young adults on the spectrum (www.NDFYA.com). Having done this kind of work for many years, I would like to share with you a few things that I have learned along the way:
- Quite often young adults who are feeling stuck and are living at home, want to live an independent life away from their parents. They see their peers going to college and moving on with their lives. They are sometimes depressed, anxious, and often stuck in the basement/bedroom playing video games or blowing up their favorite social media sites. In their heart of hearts, they want more for themselves.
- Many families do not realize how impairing anxiety can be. Approximately 50 percent of the spectrum clients I see have a comorbid anxiety disorder. I have found that avoiding uncomfortable situations in the classroom, in the workplace, or in social situations is one of the primary reasons young adults struggle to move forward with their lives. Most of the time while doing clinical intakes, anxiety is mentioned in passing. Even when the anxiety itself may be one of the primary reasons young adults have seemingly barricaded themselves in their parents’ home. Effectively treating anxiety can be an essential first step in taking the “next step” toward an independent life.
- Often times young adults (and their parents) feel that they are “high functioning” and don’t like to be associated with other young adults with disabilities. Some of the most challenging young adults I have worked with are those that have the highest IQ. They sometimes intellectualize themselves right into stagnation. They feel that since they are so smart, they don’t need some of the more traditional interventions that could be helpful. Many of these young adults are also suffering from underlying and severe anxiety.
- Finally, a good portion of spectrum young adults and their families rule out going to a traditional college having had a difficult time getting though high school. They are happy to pursue a vocational path. Before completely giving up, I will often encourage folks to pursue college with some specific structured academic supports in place. This while simultaneously addressing other barriers to success such as anxiety and depression. I have seen many occasions where after giving college a chance with the proper supports in place, young adults end up graduating with a 3.0 or higher. This may not be the path for everyone, but some simply give up too soon. Again, anxiety related to schoolwork often results in missed assignments and failing grades. Not because the work is too hard, but because poor time management and exacerbated anxiety (often caused by turning in late assignments) become the primary obstacles for a success outcome.
If you would like to learn more about how to help your young adults transition to independence, learn more about New Directions for Youngs Adults, or about our unique coordinated multidisciplinary clinical services we offer, please feel free to reach out to us at www.NDFYA.com.
Written by: Andrew Rubin, Ph.D.