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While the physical transition to a new living environment will not occur until your child has at least finished high school, preparation for that transition can start much earlier. As autistic individuals generally require more time to learn life skills, it is recommended that key personal care and daily living skills be introduced no later than the early teenage years. Regardless of when your child begins the preparation process, a range of key skills will help foster independence and success. The following provides a general list of recommended skills and topics to cover. These should be individualized and tailored to your youth’s abilities and needs.


Life Skills

Life skills, also known as “daily living skills” or “activities of daily living,” include a range of tasks people use on a daily basis, such as maintaining proper hygiene or cooking a meal. How well your young adult develops these critical life skills by the time they are ready to transition to adulthood will help determine the type of living arrangement they will thrive best in. For example, individuals who need hands-on support to use the toilet, bathe, or dress themselves on a daily basis will likely start with a group home as opposed to living in a less supportive environment such as supervised living.

Functional Skills

So-called functional skills refer to skills we all need to navigate the daily mechanics of living independently, regardless of living arrangement. The nature of these skills varies even more widely than daily living skills, and may include household maintenance, money management, shopping, or other tasks that your child may not need to learn yet.

Harnessing the power of technology, including responsible use and engagement, is another functional skill. Technology skills infuse modern-day life and benefit individuals in many areas, such as household tasks (like ordering groceries), job searches, social connections, and paying bills.

It is important to teach skills that are meaningful for both your young adult and your family as you support your child in becoming as independent as possible. In that regard, it is helpful to keep in mind that some functional skills, like driving, may take more time, resources, and support than others.

Health and Safety Skills

In addition to daily and functional living skills, it is important to prepare your young adult with the skills necessary to maintain their health and safety. Certain skills, such as responding appropriately to a fire alarm, may need ongoing practice to ensure they are retained over time.

Despite its enormous benefits, technology presents additional safety issues, including cyber[1]bullying, access to inappropriate content, and identity theft. Technology education is therefore important, including education on planning and prevention skills for online safety.

It is critical that your young adult acquires the necessary skills with the ultimate goal of being able to perform them consistently independently. The AASPIRE Healthcare Toolkit for Adults on the Autism Spectrum offers worksheets and strategies to help your young adult begin to manage their own doctor appointments.

OAR’s Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide to Safety outlines the Safety Planning Cycle and offers tips to help you and your young adult prepare for household, school, and community safety risks.

Sexuality and Relationships

Autistic individuals are very often left out of the conversation about sexuality, almost as if they are incapable of having sexual thoughts, feelings, and needs. In reality, many autistic people are sexual beings, and all autistic people need the information and skills necessary to make healthy decisions about sexuality. In discussions of this nature, it is important to address your young adult based on their actual age, instead of their cognitive age, to ensure they are receiving accurate and age-appropriate information.

This is a critical time to address relationships with members of the opposite sex or of the same sex, appropriate social skills related to friendship and dating, and the differences between the various types of relationships we encounter throughout life. As parents, it is important to know what, if any, sexuality education is being provided by the school or any other support organization.

Safety is a critical topic in general and as it pertains to sexuality and relationships. Your child may lack certain skills (e.g., distinguishing between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors) that would help them determine if a situation is safe. Discuss how to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations that may occur as your child matures, including advances from strangers keeping in mind that many cases of abuse are perpetrated by a known person. From an early age, it is crucial to teach the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching and behaviors.

For more information on sexuality and relationship topics to discuss with your young adult, visit OAR’s Sex Ed. for Self-Advocates guide.

Hobbies and Recreation

Many autistic learners have certain areas of interest or specific topics that they really like, for instance, math, animals, computers, transportation, video games, or a specific movie or TV series. As part of the transition planning process, consider how your young adult’s special interests can be used to help them make friends in their community. For some interests, there are related organizations that meet socially – anime clubs, science fiction clubs, computer/ technology clubs, chess clubs, robotics clubs, and so on. Introduce your young adult to these groups and encourage them to participate. Meeting new people based upon a similar interest, making a friend, and expanding potential support systems can be extremely helpful as your child gets older.


Check out OAR’s Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide for Transition to Adulthood (2nd Ed., 2021) for interactive handouts and tips for teaching skills in each of these areas.



This post was adapted from Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide for Transition to Adulthood. Click here to order or download the guide.