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When Should Parents Stop Pushing Their Children with Asperger's Syndrome?

By Gbollard @gbollard
If you're the parent of a young adult with Asperger's syndrome you'll be very familiar with the need to keep educating and pushing your child. You'll probably be an expert at it and you'll most certainly be very tired of all the work involved. 
The question is; should you continue to push your young adults past their twenties or should you back off and allow them to find their own way forward?
When should parents stop pushing their children with Asperger's syndrome?

We Never Stop Pushing 

Regardless of whether or not we should give our kids more space, one thing is clear.  As parents, we never stop caring for our children and their future. We simply can't help ourselves - and that's okay.
It's okay that we're always concerned for their welfare and that we want what's best for them but there are big differences between trying to help and trying to control.  We need to make sure that we stay on the right side of the line.

The Impetus to Move

One of the biggest areas of contention between parents and young adults on the spectrum is the impetus to move.
Left unchecked, many adults on the spectrum will retreat into the world of their special interests, particularly if they're television or computer game related.  There's not a lot that you can do about this but at the very least, you should not make it a "free ride".
All life decisions have consequences and everyone needs to be able to support themselves. If your young adult is living with you, they should be paying board. It could be coming out of their wages or out of entitlements or benefits they receive. 
Of course we all care about our kids and we don't want to charge them for living with us but board is an important part of growing up and learning money management.
You can use that money to support them in other ways, such as buying snacks that they like or saving it for special occasions, like holidays or gifts.  The benefit of the snacks approach is that the board has real world consequences.  If they don't pay board one week, there won't be any snacks.
If you take board from their benefits, you can give them "jobs" around the house and pay them for the work. This allow them to earn back money that they need while contributing towards the good of the household.
Either way, getting them off their devices for a short while and contributing to family life is a worthwhile goal that will prepare them for the challenges of the future. 

Computer Slobs

While we're on the subject of retreating to the computer room, it's important to make the distinction between "gaming for fun" and "living with gaming". As a parent, you need to assess the mess and if necessary "ban food from the computer/games room".  Even if you allow snacks, meals should never be eaten in front of the computer -- and all mess should be cleared away by the end of the day.
Do not enable the computer slob scenario. Remember, you have the power to "evict your tenant" for poor cleanliness if you need to -- and sometimes these things need to be done for their own personal growth. 
When should parents stop pushing their children with Asperger's syndrome?

Education and Social opportunities 

The other thing that parents need to provide for their kids is continuing exposure to social opportunities.  This means that your stay at home twenty-something son or daughter needs to be helping you with the shopping or going out to the club with you or otherwise engaging in activities that will expose them to others
In the natural order, children outlive their parents, so they need to make friends with people their own age.
Hand-in-hand with those social opportunities comes continuing social education. You need to be able to say, "that person was showing interest in you" or "let's try dressing up for tonight's outing" or "here's the money, can you go and order our food". With each interaction comes learning and self confidence.
There's also online education to consider. If you have an older kid at home, consider getting them some online course - especially if they're into computers. These courses provide a means of getting certificates which may increase their chances of getting a job -- or at least open other avenues of interest.

Acceptance and Letting go 

When all is said and done though, the old adage comes to mind; "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink". That's true of our kids.  We can expose them to as many social activities as we want but if they can't or won't engage, then we're just pushing them into uncomfortable situations and increasing family tension.
When should parents stop pushing their children with Asperger's syndrome?
Sometimes you just have to accept that they've moved as far as they can in a particular direction and that the next steps are up to them.
Push.... but not too hard. Make sure that home is always a place where they can go to relax without being judged. **


** Just one more note. Acceptance in this case is about understanding their social limitations. It doesn't mean that you can accept the mess (computer slob scenario), bad language or violence. In those cases, your children need to know that must respect you in order to be respected themselves. 

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