Emerging adulthood is a phrase of the life span between adolescence and full-fledged adulthood which encompasses late adolescence and early adulthood. Dr. Jeffrey Arnett proposed this definition in a 2000 article in the research journal, American Psychologist.
I highlight the first one on his list, because I feel it’s the most important one to pay attention to –
“You will hit social/developmental milestones in your own time, in your own way…and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ignore those who say otherwise.”
Because each person has asynchronous development (meaning some skills may be further ahead than others your age, while other skills may be lagging behind), it may take longer to master certain aspects of independent living.
It’s important for both parents and young people (all of us!) to understand this, and to extend grace and compassion to themselves and ourselves, when it comes to this whole “growing up” thing.
But Ignoring Emerging Adulthood Is Not The Answer
a) If you ignore emerging adulthood, you won’t know what skills you need to “grow up”
What’s the biggest predictor of success for people with autism in adulthood? Researchers say it might not be what you’d expect.
The ability to do everyday, self-care activities like bathing, cleaning and cooking trumped other factors like symptom severity and intellectual functioning, according to findings from a new study being presented this week at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Salt Lake City.
Besides self-care skills, there are other skill areas to consider when transitioning to adulthood:
maintaining health relationships
work and study habits
driving and/or using public transportation
budgeting and paying bills
b) If you ignore emerging adulthood, you’re at higher risk for depression and anxiety.
“reduce anxiety symptoms by gradually exposing the youth to their anxiety triggers, to increase tolerance to uncomfortable situations, and to learn coping and adaptation skills.Individuals work in groups and individual therapy to set goals, improve communication skills, and practice facing and engaging in age-appropriate independent tasks.The families focus on encouraging independence and disengaging from unhelpful compensatory behaviors.”
When any of us struggle to perform skills needed for adulthood in everyday society, we’ll feel both anxious, and over time depressed.By identifying the skills we need and making a plan to develop those skills, we’ll be building competence.
As we feel more competent, our self-esteem will go up.
Here’s an powerful Ted-X talk about the science of self-motivation:
Young people and parents, here are 3 questions to ask, based on self-motivation research, about life skills.
a) Can you do it? Do you believe you can do it?
Do you have the time, knowledge, and training to do it
b) Will it work? Do you believe that it will work?
Believing that the behavior will lead to the desired outcome.
Training helps a person learn a behavior, in which they get feedback.
c) Is it worth it?
Do you believe the consequences of applying your skills will result in an outcome you desire?
If you answer “yes” to the above three questions, you are most likely to feel competent, and therefore self-motivated.
Implications for yourself and for parents:
Try out new skills and get feedback.
Give yourself positive recognition (or, as a parent, give your young person positive recognition)
Get the training you need to learn the life skills.
Empower yourself/ your child to make a choice
Become part of a community who will encourage you (hint: contact me to be added to the Thrive with Aspergers community!)
When any of us struggle to perform skills needed for adulthood in everyday society, we’ll feel both anxious, and over time depressed.By identifying the skills we need and getting help to develop them, we’ll be building competence.
One person on Wrong Planet told me (with permission to quote here)
Self-care: I still struggle with this–especially when I get overwhelmed. My parents were lenient. I had no chores growing up. It has been difficult for me to learn basic things life cooking and cleaning.
My takeaway, as a parent and therapist, is to be realistic and affirming of the young person with autism, but also to work together with that young person to set independent living skill goals to strive toward.
Acknowledge Emerging Adulthood and Start Making The Transition
1.Think about all the progress you’ve made to date.
Whether you’re a young adult, or the parent of a young adult, think about all the progress you’ve made!
Too often, in the midst of the stress of transitioning to adulthood, both young parents and parents can forget the many positive gains made to date.
Celebrate all the skills you have learned!
2.Take a self assessment!
Recently, inspired by this topic, I asked my son to take the Casey Life Skills Survey.There are no right or wrong answers.
If you’re the parent, register as a provider.Once you’re registered, you can then add your son or daughter as a participant.
Or, if you’re a young person, have your parent register as a provider and add you as a user.
This life skills inventory was designed for people in the foster-care system.
However, I found that taking the survey has been a very easy way to help young adults figure out a baseline of their adult living skills.
The survey measures the following areas:
Maintaining healthy relationships
Work and study habits
Planning and goal-setting
Using community resources
Daily living activities
Budgeting and paying bills
This practice guide (available once you create your free account, under the Help and Training Tab) shows you how to give the test:
a) First, you encourage your young person to take the assessment.
b) Then you and your spouse take the assessment, thinking about your son or daughter’s skill levels for each area.
c) Review your youth’s assessment results.Be sure to review the positive strengths, but then also the gaps, or what’s missing.
d) Talk with each other!
As a parent, talk with your son or daughter about where their at.You can then have creative conversations about how to help move toward mastering those skills at a pace that is comfortable for them.
e) The very best part!
Resources to Inspire Guide.You get this, once more, by signing up and creating your own account.You can set goals and activities that will help you, together, master the skills that are lacking.
4. Don’t get overwhelmed. Target one life skill per month and go to work on it. Celebrate your progress, and be patient with yourself.
5. Connect with others. Don’t go through this journey alone! Go to WrongPlanet and sign up for your own login/account. It’s free! You can sign up as yourself or with a pseudonym. Also, join me in our new closed, secret Facebook group. You’ll need to contact me and provide your email so that I can sign you up for my newsletter and also so that I can send you an invite to the group.
Join the Conversation
What topics would you most like covered on the show? Who would you like me to interview? Share you answer in the comments below or Ask me a question via my Contact Page.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."