Most of us tend to ignore some issues until they become important in our own lives. We have talked in the past about challenges that arise for people with autism once they graduate from high school, but questions and concerns about those issues are starting to flow in as graduation approaches for the class of 2009. Today we’ll talk about the sudden increase in leisure time as a person transitions from “high school student” to “young adult.”
Although most teenagers wish they had more leisure time, they realize that free time quickly turns into boredom after graduation. When they were in school, they spent time every day away from the house and in the presence of friends, teachers, and fellow students. Then they came home to spend time at home with their family members and people in their community. But things change when they graduate from high school. In most cases, individuals with autism lose contact with their teachers and school friends, some of whom they have known for many years. And, unless college or a job is waiting after graduation, a person with autism will find their daily schedules empty compared to busy school days. Often family and friends are unable to spend time with them during the day like teachers and fellow students did at school.
If our friends with autism are unable to fill their increased leisure time productively on their own, how can we help decrease boredom and increase contentment after graduation? Rather than parking a person in front of a television for hours on end, provide a variety of leisure time options so they have choices for free time. Hang a hammock or hammock swing in the back yard or on the porch or in a room. Get an iPod and help your friend download a new song each day. Teach them to play challenge games on the computer or a game system. Check out three new books or DVD’s at the public library each week. Scout out activities in your community for individuals with special needs – bowling leagues, exercise groups, therapeutic horse-back riding, music, or other activities that fit the functioning level and interests of your friend with autism.
Follow the lead of teachers and post a basic daily schedule that includes mundane things like meals, chores, and brushing teeth as well as several special events each day. Give purpose to each day by setting up a weekly schedule for your friend with autism to help prepare meals, clean-up after meals, do laundry, water plants, feed pets, sweep the floor, and put away clothes. Think creatively and consider the person’s interests and functioning level when searching for options for their free time after graduation from high school.
NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at talk@FAQautism.com with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com