High Functioning Autism – Living Independently

High Functioning Autism – Living Independently

Do you think high functioning autism living independently can happen?  According to Wikipedia, “despite high cognitive potential, most young adults with AS remain at home, although some do marry and work independently.”


Those adults who do marry and work independently, struggle with a society that still discriminates against people with different conditions, as well as with different Aspergers symptoms such as sensory challenges, information processing, and executive functioning.

Some People Need To Think Bigger

“If I fail, I try again, and again, and again. If YOU fail, are you going to try again? The human spirit can handle much worse than we realize. It matters HOW you are going to FINISH. Are you going to finish strong?”  Nick Vujcic

Nick Vujcic, a man with no arms and legs, hasn’t let his condition hold him back.

His love story, in the video below, shows us a man of faith and determination.

Some People Need To Be (More) Realistic

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

One summer in college, I worked with a couple of carpenters.  They delighted in poking fun at the college boy with no mechanical talent.  One day, just for laughs, they asked me to build a sawhorse.  It took me all day to put that simple thing together.  When I presented my fragile creation to them, they gave it a little push, and it fell apart!  I took wood shop and metal shop in high school, and I worked for carpenters two separate summers while in college.  I can tell you to this day that I would be a terrible carpenter!

When thinking about people with high functioning autism living independently, let’s realize we all  have strengths, and we all have limitations.  Some parents, teachers, and even people on the autism spectrum expect too much of themselves, to the point that they can be unrealistic.  But they may also sell people short.

People on the autism spectrum should be encouraged to reach the highest level of potential within their range of capabilities.

My purpose, in this article, is to tell you that, while accepting your limitations, you can expand your independent living skills.

Thank you to Dr. Kevin Keough for encouraging me to think about independent living for high functioning autism adults.

He sent me some resources he’s using to work with a young man with Aspergers/high functioning autism.  I’m not going to share all of them today, but I do plan to write a series of posts that will use his ideas along with others I’ve researched.

Steps To Increase Your Independent Living Skills

Find out your baseline of independent living skills.

How do you rate on the different independent living skills?

Take this Independent Living Skills Questionnaire, or let a friend, relative, or teacher fill it out with you.

You’ll get a better idea of what skills you are good at, and where you need to improve.

Ask yourself whether you’re ready to change.

stages of changeYou may like the idea of independent living.  However, you may not like the discomfort and work it will take to expand your independent living skills.

Research on the stages of change shows that all of us are at different stages of readiness when it comes to making a change in our lives.

Here’s a stages of change questionnaire to help you honestly assess whether you’re ready to learn greater independent living skills.  [Note: this is checking your readiness to change your exercise routine.  Substitute independent living skills for exercise for this questionnaire].

My ezines article called Fighting Addiction: Why Changing Behavior Is So Hard, talks about the stages of change.  I know, addiction is different than the topic of this article.  But my overview of the stages of change will help you better understand the concept of change.

Discover Your Strengths

Read my article about Six Best Free Strengths Test Sites to make a list of your strengths.  It’s important to know your strengths when you’re learning something new and challenging.

Make a Change Plan

First, I recommend obtaining a copy of Valerie Gaus’s book, Living Well on the Spectrum.  In her book, she outlines different independent living skill areas of life, and leads the reader through practical problem solving to improve their lives.  She explains, in depth, how autism differences can cause challenges in different life areas, so that the reader can figure out better ways to cope.

Here’s a video of Dr. Gaus talking about her book:

You may also enjoy this article about her book in Time Magazine.

Dr. Karl Albrecht’s free My Change Plan can help you outline your goals toward greater independent living skills.

If you’ve just graduated high school, and you had an Individualized Education Plan, make sure you look at it carefully.  A lot of the goals written there will help you understand the progress you’ve made and growth areas you may still need to work on.


You may have worked extremely hard to increase your living skills, only to have major setbacks due to life stress or unforeseen circumstances.  I respect that.  This does not mean you’ve failed.  It means that, like every other human being, stress can sometimes cause us to fall apart.  Don’t be afraid to seek counseling help from someone who understands the autism spectrum.

There may be limitations to how much you can learn.  Again, trusted professionals and friends can help you know whether you can learn and do more, or whether you need to accept your limitations.

Society is still learning about the autism spectrum.  Autism advocacy and awareness has increased exponentially since the 1980’s.  But there’s still a long way to go.  I honor and respect the challenges that many people on the autism spectrum have faced from employers and friends who are ignorant of the neurological autism differences and challenges.

My gift to you: Free Top 10 Online Transition to Adulthood Resources
We've researched some of the best online resources for you.

Photo Credits:

dhammza via photopin cc [I chose the picture of the plant growing out of barrenness to represent human resilience and the capacity to learn skills when one feels defeated]

stages of change photo from Wikipedia

Other Articles You May Enjoy:

Transition to Employment and Independent Living, by Dr. Temple Grandin.

Independent Living with Aspergers Syndrome

Daniel Wendler, a young man with Aspergers, pushed himself to become proficient in social skills.  Watch his Tedx Talk here.

Please share your thoughts about high functioning autism and living independently below!

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 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

Are you tired of feeling alone, like you're the only one in this world? Please join the Thrive with Aspergers Community to connect with others just like you!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Aspergerplus

    For someone with a late in life diagnosis this is always a strange question.   Since i lived independently all my life. what does that mean?

  • Stephen Borgman

    Aspergerplus, thank you so very much for your question. This article would be written more for a) young adults who haven’t yet left home, but want to, or b) adults who are living with their parents, and want to live more independently. Of course autism is a spectrum, so there are many, like you, who are living quite independently.

  • Full Spectrum Mama

    My son and I will need this big time in a few years – hope i will have the brain to find it…Thanks so much,

  • I know you will! 🙂

  • deadslug

    The “Independent Living Skills Questionnaire” link is 404ing, just to let you know.