Being a parent/caregiver of an individual with autism or any learning difference can be an emotional roller coaster.
You have mastered the art of communicating the needs for your young adult, advocating for the rights, accommodations and/or modifications your child deserves, and you will do whatever it takes to ensure that your student receives the proper respect and representation.
At College Internship Program (CIP) we strive to offer support services for young adults on the autism spectrum, with ADHD and other learning differences as they transition to college, employment, and independent living, so that they can live happy and productive lives.
In our Life Skills Department, we do our best to teach students how to live independently through a comprehensive program dedicated to facilitating their abilities to learn how to cook, clean, communicate effectively with a roommate, identify boundaries, and build executive functioning skills to maintain their ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living).
In order to encourage independence, it is important for CIP to take the baton from parents/caregivers and take the role of student advocate. Our staff works diligently to gain the trust and respect of the student to ensure a positive and progressive relationship; doing so creates a healthy work dynamic between staff and these young adults.
While students are acclimating to CIP, staff identifies their strengths and challenges. Each challenge is aided with a SMART goal and weekly assessment. These goals are created by the student with staff and are worked towards each week. Examples of goals include independently researching a recipe to meal prep, or simply cleaning off countertops. Staff is able to observe each student's competence to complete the task and recognizes when a student wants support versus requires support.
It is not uncommon for students to demonstrate a level of competence and completion of their goal and suddenly not be able to perform when caregivers come to visit. For example, situations have occurred where students continue to rely on their caregivers and call them to visit. Upon visiting, caregivers feel obligated to stock the refrigerator and shelves with groceries or clean their apartments or do their laundry. We realize parents and caregivers want to continue demonstrating their love and support through these gestures, but the more opportunities our students have to execute these skills without parental/caregiver support, the faster the skills will be developed and applied.
If you are sending your student to CIP, or a similar post-secondary support program, here are some ways to ensure you are not enabling your student, but recognizing their potential and trusting their capability as an independent adult.
Kayla Cherry is the Life Skills & Wellness Coordinator at CIP. She graduated from California State University, Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communicative Disorders for Speech Language Pathology. Kayla is passionate about advocating for individuals with disabilities and ensuring their accommodations or modifications are met.