Struggles with 18-year old ASD son

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The_Znof
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09 Sep 2021, 10:15 pm

Silas wrote:
He likes film, anthropology and cultural studies, and a few other academic things, but that doesn't lead to meeting people.



He may be too immature for college right now, so his interest in these things is not developed enough to get him through the dry and busy work required to get a degree.



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09 Sep 2021, 10:56 pm

Life as an adult on the spectrum is very different than life as a child on the spectrum. People have very little patience with adults that diverge from the norm.
You sound very frustrated but what you describe sounds like life as many adults on the spectrum know it.
Making friends is a complex task that has so many obstacles and pitfalls for those who cannot grasp its intricacies.
Your son wants friends and I believe firmly that your prompting and prodding will never make that happen - either he will discover friends in his own way and on his own timeline or he will not be so lucky. Finding friends as a child merely takes two kids with something in common to cross paths. Not so as adults. It takes much more planning, communication, understanding unspoken rules, body language, and you must bring much more to the table than your mere presence. I suggest sympathizing with his plight without adding to his stress load. Be a support not a solution. With respect to housing and independence - be sure he knows that he will always be welcome to stay with you (if this is true), even if he moves out he can come back, and that you will always be there when he needs you.



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10 Sep 2021, 12:41 am

Silas wrote:
My son just started community college after being home-schooled since kindergarten. He has taken many online courses and even some courses outside the home since that time, and for the most part he did fine. But the following issues are driving me to the edge, and I don't know where to turn:

1. Complete lack of initiative and poor planning: he will complain about being lonely and not having friends, but then take no concrete steps to go out and meet peers. I have to give him the list of college social clubs, etc. and give him some direction on how to get involved. I even drive him to a couple events--but if I don't do that, he will simply isolate and never think to branch out. He does socialize online quite a bit (discord & reddit), but aside from one friend he occasionally sees, he has zero social life.

Takes a long time to complete assignments in school (zones out), and we have to stay on him relentlessly. That isn't helping obviously.


I think the first concept you need to absorb is that ASD is a developmental delay, and that you cannot expect him to grow into himself by around the age of 18 in the same way NT kids/young adults usually do. You have to meet him where he is at developmentally with no expectations based on timing or age.

Many with ASD struggle with executive function skills and it sounds to me like this is a core issue for him. With my son, the make or break moment with executive function hit when he started middle school, but since your son was home schooled you got to skip that headache. Unfortunately, you're got to deal with it now. For two years I basically became my son's personal secretary, sitting with him as we sorted assignments, organized calendars, and talked through what needed to happen when. Eventually we developed a system together that he felt comfortable keeping up with on his own, and he's been in charge ever since. Still, it will always be a struggle for him. Compliance will never be perfect, but each failure creates a challenge to improve his system. One key for him is recognizing the issue and being careful to mold his life and career so that executive function plays the smallest role possible. For tasks he will always struggle with, I've kept an open door, where I don't want him to be afraid to ask me for help. If he needs help, I will always be willing to take it on, but because he is an adult, I now wait for him to ask, and I stay within the parameters of his ask.

Quote:
2. Narrow focus of interest(s): he has zero interest in sports or athletics of any kind. I get him to play tennis, but he barely tries, and doesn't care. Likewise, I try to get him involved with the church group, but he has no interest in religion, and now that he is an adult, group activities are pretty limited. He isn't even into online video games very much. He likes film, anthropology and cultural studies, and a few other academic things, but that doesn't lead to meeting people.


Quote:
He has the following interests: hiking & nature, anthropology, culture, linguistics (to some degree), history, and dogs. He also likes cinema. That is pretty much it


This is really common with ASD individuals, and there isn't really any good reason to break them out of it. They are at their best and shine brightest when in the realm of their interests. Encourage him to explore potential future occupations that would use these interests and encourage him to fantasize and dream a little until he has a vision of the life he'd like to lead someday. Start with brainstorming, then help him refine it to something achievable. Once he has that, the vision becomes the motivation for taking the steps to reach the goal.

Hiking is fantastic exercise that can take him to amazing places and keep him fit. Encourage it.

Quote:
3. Struggles with driving a bit, although he has his license. Limits where he can go to some degree --can't drive on the highway. Again, dependent on me for this.

We have thought about executive function training (expensive), but I have heard mixed things. So I am dealing with a kid with virtually no interests or motivations that lead to a productive interpersonal life, and who lacks initiative and planning. I find myself getting very upset frequently now.

If anyone has any pointers, or has managed to overcome some of this stuff, I am all ears.


I never paid for executive function training. As described above, I walked with my son hand in hand for two years. We did it together. Once I had accepted that was what I needed to do for him, I just got down to business and did it. It became a part of our days. Once you get past the unrealistic ideas of where he should be at, it will be easier to accept and deal with where he actually is at. Remember, throw out the time tables, throw out the expectations. It really is no different from the advice you probably heard when he was a child.

As for friendships, does it bother him, or does it bother you? The pandemic renders most of my suggestions moot, so short term, if it doesn't bother him, don't let it bother you. As he pursues his interests he should eventually have opportunities to bond with those who share his interest. He doesn't need many people; he only needs enough.


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10 Sep 2021, 12:54 am

Quote:
to a productive interpersonal life

Not to pass any judgment to your family, just explaining my own point of view: What was considered a "productive interpersonal life" by 99% of the people around me, including my family, was not suitable for me and ended up getting me depressed. This was in my early 20s halfway through university. After that, I've accepted that I'm different and tried to carve my own path. I have a job and a family now, but I still don't conform to the previously mentioned image people around me had. Since I deviate from the norm by default, I've had to find a different level and type of social and vocational activity. Thinking back, I didn't show any initative or impulse for what my parents recommended for me, because I knew instinctively it was not what I wanted, needed, or even could handle.

Again, just provided for perspective.



Silas
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15 Sep 2021, 9:52 am

Thanks for all the helpful replies.

The college transition has been an aggravating struggle for sure, and I do understand that as a developmental disorder, he may have maturity issues, executive function problems, etc., and that is to be expected.

I also understand that he should be able to socialize and make friends as he wishes, without me putting my own expectations on top of him. Nevertheless, he has complained in the past about being lonely and not having friends, and as I mentioned, when I make suggestions on how to find some, it goes in one ear and out the other.

I hate to use this analogy, but it is like dealing with a drug addict or someone with alzheimers. He will forget to put on clean clothes, leave his textbook in the classroom at the college, forget to do assignments (or even check), print out a paper the wrong way, resulting in blank sheets, and then put it into his folder without even noticing. The list goes on and on, and it requires constant attention from me to keep him on track.

The lost COVID-19 year made things a lot worse: isolation, remote learning, lack of responsibility, etc. Playing catch up at this point.

Strangely enough, my youngest son is also on the spectrum (had issues with language development, and some typical ASD behaviors like stimming, etc.) and he doesn't have any of these issues: he gets his assignments done (high school), plays multiple sports, and is independent.



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15 Sep 2021, 10:02 am

"If you know one person on the spectrum, you know one person on the spectrum".

I think there is a dimension of dyspraxia that results in this kind of dificulties. If this was the case, the only way to deal with it would be finding workarounds.

One of the possible workarounds is scheduling, structure, some say "rituals", I prefer the term "procedures". If you do a thing always the same way, there is way lower chance of doing it wrong.
It takes time to learn it, though.


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Silas
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15 Sep 2021, 10:15 am

magz wrote:
"If you know one person on the spectrum, you know one person on the spectrum".

I think there is a dimension of dyspraxia that results in this kind of dificulties. If this was the case, the only way to deal with it would be finding workarounds.

One of the possible workarounds is scheduling, structure, some say "rituals", I prefer the term "procedures". If you do a thing always the same way, there is way lower chance of doing it wrong.
It takes time to learn it, though.


agreed. We are working to get these procedures down, but it is stressful.

for instance: I have had him drive me to his college 6-7 times, and made sure he knew the way (30 min drive). It pretty much has to be the same way every time, but today I noticed construction blocking a road. So I had to drive him today, and probably until the construction is complete--which means I am starting late for work.

I think people don't realize how disruptive and difficult stuff like this can be



magz
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15 Sep 2021, 10:27 am

Silas wrote:
I think people don't realize how disruptive and difficult stuff like this can be

Definitely.
One on the spectrum needs to learn all the standard skills AND workarounds for such difficulties.
No wonder we graduate late.


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15 Sep 2021, 5:26 pm

Your son may seem to be ignoring your advice about making friends because it's not suited to him. AS people may not make friends in the same ways as everyone else. The good thing is that, once you have one or 2 friends, they can help you meet more people.

If he's not religious, trying to make friends at religious gatherings is not a good idea. AS people already mask in enough ways without adding religion to the list.

You say he's a film enthusiast. Depending on where you live, film festivals are great concentrations of people with a common interest. Of course, when I was his age, I could go to such an event and still not meet anyone because of lack of social skills. But it's still a fun activity.

The constant help with driving, his school assignments and so on may help him in the short term, but it may also lead to a lack of independence. He needs, at some point, to take responsibility for himself and accept the consequences of his own mistakes. "Learned helplessness" is real.

I struggled with all these things myself as a teenager, and I'm now starting to see them again in my 14-year-old son.


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17 Sep 2021, 3:35 am

One of the advantages of COVID is that more social outlets have moved online. I wonder if you could find a club that centers on one of his interests and meets online. The advantage of online is that a group can cast a wider net, not get stuck to geography. Over time he could come in contact with people that are also geographically close.

My son needs people, but he has a hard time staying engaged with anything that doesn’t interest him. All his friends (and his girlfriend) share most of his interests. Since COVID, they have regular online meet ups, chat groups, etc.


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17 Sep 2021, 5:43 am

Silas wrote:
My son just started community college after being home-schooled since kindergarten. He has taken many online courses and even some courses outside the home since that time, and for the most part he did fine. But the following issues are driving me to the edge, and I don't know where to turn:

1. Complete lack of initiative and poor planning: he will complain about being lonely and not having friends, but then take no concrete steps to go out and meet peers. I have to give him the list of college social clubs, etc. and give him some direction on how to get involved. I even drive him to a couple events--but if I don't do that, he will simply isolate and never think to branch out. He does socialize online quite a bit (discord & reddit), but aside from one friend he occasionally sees, he has zero social life.

Takes a long time to complete assignments in school (zones out), and we have to stay on him relentlessly. That isn't helping obviously.

2. Narrow focus of interest(s): he has zero interest in sports or athletics of any kind. I get him to play tennis, but he barely tries, and doesn't care. Likewise, I try to get him involved with the church group, but he has no interest in religion, and now that he is an adult, group activities are pretty limited. He isn't even into online video games very much. He likes film, anthropology and cultural studies, and a few other academic things, but that doesn't lead to meeting people.

3. Struggles with driving a bit, although he has his license. Limits where he can go to some degree --can't drive on the highway. Again, dependent on me for this.

We have thought about executive function training (expensive), but I have heard mixed things. So I am dealing with a kid with virtually no interests or motivations that lead to a productive interpersonal life, and who lacks initiative and planning. I find myself getting very upset frequently now.

If anyone has any pointers, or has managed to overcome some of this stuff, I am all ears.


When he finds something he IS interested in he will be unstoppable in it's pursuit. I also hate sports and see religion as interesting only from the POV of history and anthropology. Driving was hard for me to learn but driving around a residential area is actually harder imo. Too many stops and unpredictable situations. I love the highway. It's all one direction and no stops.

Until I met my wife, who is also on the spectrum, I was in my mid thirties and had never dated for long. Same with her. We just couldn't find anyone we could relate to and who would accept us for how we are without producing huge lists of things that they demanded we change overnight. We are perfect for each other and understand each other completely.

Narrowly focused interests is normal for us and if he isn't interested in something he will have little motivation. Actually imo you shouldn't have homeschooled him because he is now probably used to staying at home and doing what he wants, and adjusting to life outside that is going to be very hard for him.



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28 Oct 2021, 11:22 am

My son is now 26 he didn't show interest in doing most normal "adult" things till he was like 20 at least maybe even 23. He's diagnosed Aspergers. He only just recently got his license. He's working at a job he enjoys - it took him a little longer to get there but he's there.

@ the OP maybe your son just needs time to be himself and not worry about school or sports or activities.

Also my son getting help from outside agencies helped a lot. I didn't have to be the one nagging him or driving him all over - they paid someone else to do that. Took the stress off me.


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02 Nov 2021, 12:28 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
...When I was 18, I filled out a college application in crayon. I've grown up a lot since then. I didn't go to college until I was 36. Ultimately, I graduated with honors and some awards.

He's just going through some things. It's likely, with your guidance, that he'll get more mature as he gets older. Aspies tend to take a little longer to "grow up."

I can understand your consternation. I know it's frustrating. But all is not lost.


OMG - my husband's nephew did his budget in crayon. The nephew is not diagnosed ASD, but something. He had dropped out of college (couldn't manage his work) and generally seems to lack initiative and self-motivation (a personality trait in my husband and my daughter). He was dependent on his mom, so we suggested he come our way for some independence practice. We had the most basic of house rules (which he sometimes grudgingly adhered to - I was always kind and firm) and I had basic life goals for him (hold a job, get a car, find an apartment, create a budget). By golly, it took near a year (and I had to financially pressure him with "rent"), but he did it!! ! He is now living with a girlfriend and has had a steady job for over 6 years.

Interestingly, I (ASD) also dropped out of college and sat around the house for a year (doing puzzles). And my ASD BFF sat around her house (engrossed in a special interest) after her Masters. I was homeless in my late 20s, but had a (NT) boyfriend to help me. My BFF and I were miserable to say the least. We didn't find our way until we were in our early 30s. Now decades later we are both financially stable and happy, albeit I am between jobs right now and it's a bit of a flashback to my 20s. I'm busy, but not in the "right" ways. One might say I am unmotivated in the job search area (really it's avoidance). Well, I got through it then, and I'll get through it now... eventually.

Good luck. Hold it in mind that he can find his way. I would say to my ASD self and daughter: "I know it's hard and we (or you) can figure this out." There's a way, really. Keep at it! ASD folks can be very resourceful when we have to be. Really. It will get better (for all of you). Hang in there!



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07 Nov 2021, 3:37 pm

Does he even want to go to college?

Maybe it would be better for him to look into getting a part time job, and learning some work skills. I think I would have been way better off in my life if I had done that after graduating HS, than wasting my time with college.

If he did well at a part time job that could also help him with confidence more so then grueling school work he's not even interested in and constantly getting bad grades because he can't motivate himself at all. Or maybe he could try volunteering in something he's interested in.

Idk just kind of seems like you want him to be in college a lot more than he wants to be, and in my opinion its causing you extra stress because you have to basically do college for him from the sound of it. So idk maybe it is time to talk to him about other options than college...as it may not be a realistic goal for him.



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12 Nov 2021, 4:42 am

planning is quite difficult for children with ASD. What you need to do is make a schedule with your son to plan out when to work and when to socialise, then leave it up to him whether he follows the schedule or not. Let him pick the societies and clubs he wants to go to as he might not like the ones you're picking. It will be a slow process. He might only go to one social event per week in the first term and then gradually increase it from there. The key thing is don't push it too much, teenagers will say no to whatever you propose just to rebel. The work schedule should also help with getting him to work. Just leave him by his desk during work time. Even if he does zone out a bit he will get some work done, just don't hover over him. One step at a time, driving perfectly can come when he's sorted his life out a bit.



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12 Nov 2021, 4:44 am

Do look at what I've said. I'm a twenty year old autistic student and I know what 18 year olds are like