Many have criticized the education system for failing to teach basic life skills to students. It is true that today, high school graduates have a tough time with basic tasks like cooking a simple meal, writing a check, or balancing their checkbooks. It is far worse for those on the autism spectrum.
Parents, usually the caregivers for their autistic children, do not live forever. Without proper learning to cope with their own needs, the child will grow up unable to help themselves once the parents are gone. That puts the task of caregiving on siblings or cousins whose dedication will never match that of a parent.
This is one of the key reasons so many adults on the spectrum end up in assisted-living care. It becomes a great burden for the individual to feel abandoned, perhaps disliked by their family, and stressed that they have become a burden to their relatives. The individual feels pressure to do better, to take care of themselves, to be independent of those who are tasked with caregiving. They also feel depressed for their inability to achieve basic goals.
While in some cases the inability to care for themselves is caused by the degree of their condition, in too many cases it is the result of lack of training. They were simply never taught to do the basic things when they were children and particularly as teens.
Loving parents, usually forget to teach their children these basic skills, expecting they will learn by observation. This simply isn’t the case. Unless made aware that learning these skills is critical, the child will happily accept the care without associating it with self-care.
At some point the education system must step in and teach basic skills. Home Economics, for example, should be mandatory for autistic students from junior high school. Civics, to understand the individual’s rights and how to cope when confronted by police, and financial literacy are all critical.
Schools must teach living skills, ensuring the child is aware of how to care for him- or herself. The education system must go beyond what it presently teaches for one reason. That is its present abandonment of those on the autism spectrum. Educators have much to atone for.
Let’s get this right. This isn’t about blame; it’s about living better. It’s about having a future.
Shouldn’t society ensure that those among us with disabling or limiting conditions have a fair chance at self-sufficiency, improved self-respect, but mostly the ability to feel independent? Helping others become self-sufficient reduces costs, helps improve life, and brings more joy to everyone.
When people believe they can achieve for themselves, they’ll try to achieve more. Autistic citizens often have a special, unique talent, and with confidence in themselves, it’s possible they can achieve something great. All this could come from simply teaching a child to help him or herself to do the basic things in life. Let’s just do it.