Learning to make choices is very important. Knowing what you want and don’t want is the first step in becoming a good self-advocate.
Once you know what you want, you can learn how to ask for it.
This video from SpeakOut Advocacy in Tasmania is a quick and easy introduction to making decisions:
We all make small decisions every day – what to eat, what to wear, what to do in our free time.
When we leave school, it is time to start making some bigger decisions – whether to do further study or not, which jobs to apply for, whether to get a driver’s licence.
To make bigger decisions, it is helpful to know:
- What do I need in my life?
- What do I want to do?
- What makes me happy and makes my life good?
Use a workbook
To help you work through these steps for making big decisions, the My Choice Matters website has a great workbook that looks at needs and dreams, figuring out the sort of life that interests you, and things that you can do to get the life that you want.
There is also a great workbook called the Get Ready For Study and Work Workbook. This workbook will take you through all of the necessary steps to make a successful transition from school. It also includes specific contact information for each state and territory.
After a lifetime of advocating, supporting and working hard to ensure the very best outcome possible, it can be very hard for parents to “let go” of their children as they approach adulthood.
But “let go” we must.
Like all young people, our sons and daughters will soon be young adults who are entitled to make their own choices according to their own preferences and wishes, to the greatest extent that they are able.
Step 1 – I must be able to get inside his head and find what he really wants.
Step 2 – I must be willing to set aside my own fears in order to give him his freedom.
This quote is from a heartwarming story written by the parent of a young man with autism in the US. It will resonate with many parents.
Little by little
A good place to start is to look at what choices your son or daughter is already making for themselves and then to extend their choices.
Simple ideas are to encourage choices in everyday decisions from early in the teenage years such as:
- Which way to drive somewhere
- Timing of things like breakfast times
- What to watch on TV
- What kind of clothes to buy
- What kind of haircut to get
Once they develop confidence and practice in making choices, it is time to start encouraging them to consider more important decisions such as choosing a job, a a course or how to use any funding.
These are big choices to be made in the years after school so it’s good to get started in the teenage years.
On the “Young People” page we have put links to a number of helpful resources to assist your son or daughter in the decision making process.
To help them work through the steps for making big decisions the My Choice Matters website has a great workbook that looks at needs and dreams, figuring out the sort of life that interests them, and things that they can do to get the life that they want.
There is also a great workbook called the Get Ready For Study and Work Workbook. This workbook will take them through all of the necessary steps to make a successful transition from school. It also includes specific contact information for each state and territory.
Why it’s good to let go
Parents may not make the best teachers as their children grow into young men and women.
It is common, and completely normal, for a teenager to get annoyed and frustrated with their parents. Sometimes it can be helpful for parents to step back from social skills and life skills training and find others who can take over.
Another trusted adult may be saying exactly what the parents would say e.g. explaining the rules of friendship, advice on money or on relationships with boyfriends and girlfriends.
Very often a teenager or young person is more likely to listen to someone outside the family.
This is so frustrating for parents, but rest assured that you are in very good company.
Typical teenagers are generally worse in this regard than our kids on the spectrum!
This is a website and training program which encourages and educates about person centred planning.
It will be most helpful for parents of young people with high support needs.
The Choice and Control section has lots of information and success stories.
Picture My Future
If your son or daughter needs considerable support in developing choice making skills, you or your service provider may find Picture My Future useful.
This resource has been developed to assist people with intellectual disability to make choices using visuals strategies.
Picture My Future is a set of online training modules and toolkit.