Independent Living

What specific skills do our friends with autism need in order to live as independently as possible? Sometimes we focus on self-care like grooming and dressing or daily-living skills like laundry and cooking when thinking of self-sufficiency, but the list of skills necessary for independent living is VERY long!

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Autism, by definition, is complex. Anyone functioning on the spectrum of autism is dealing to one degree or another with deficits in communication and social interaction while, at the same time, dealing with issues related to transition, routines, sensory sensitivities, flexibility, and problem solving. The diagnostic criteria for autism raise some red flags about skills necessary for living independently.

For example, can a person who has challenges related to communication and social interaction participate successfully in a job interview? Can a person with extreme sensory issues and inflexibility survive apartment living? What about managing finances, getting along with co-workers, driving a car, planning and preparing meals, dealing with leisure time, home repair, and other aspects of daily life that most typical people take for granted? Can your friend with autism take care of all the day-to-day issues without any assistance?

The good news is that independent living is not an “all-or-nothing” proposition. Instead, we help people reach their greatest potential somewhere along this range of self-sufficiency.
1. Needs assistance in every step of daily care.
2. Completes personal care and daily living tasks with close supervision.
3. Completes personal care and daily living tasks with reminders.
4. Initiates some tasks and takes care of daily responsibilities, but still needs some reminders.
5. Functions somewhat independently in supported environment.
6. Lives independently with some support for transportation, financial management, or other issues.
7. Lives independently.

TIP FOR THE DAY: Beginning in early childhood, we can teach various skills and gradually give people opportunities over the years to practice new skills with as little prompting and supervision as possible. The ultimate goal is to help each person with autism become as self-sufficient as possible over time. The process never stops.

If you want some help with this process, with developing and implementing a plan that meets the specific and unique needs of an individual with autism, click on the Toolkit tab on our website for great resources;

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At 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 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.

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