A diagnosis of ASD or ‘failure to launch’ syndrome affects the entire home. No one is immune to the stress, sacrifice, accommodations and range of emotions associated with the diagnosis. Oftentimes, the questions that come up in parent groups, has to do with what parents, caregivers, siblings and other family members can do to deal with the stress associated with raising a young adult with ASD or ‘failure to launch’ syndrome. Life coaching is a relatively new concept, but one that is proving to be successful. Studies show that use of coaching can increase higher levels of self-awareness, lower stress reactions and increase self-confidence among families with a member diagnosed with ASD or ‘failure to launch’. According to one study (2014 study conducted by the International Coach Federation), having a life coach was rated as a valuable investment that resulted in long-term positive outcomes for more than 98% of the participants.
The whole family benefits when parents are coached around the issues they face when raising their young adults with ASD and ‘failure to launch’, especially in the following ways:
1. Families Develop Practical Expectations and Acceptance
Remember when your child was young, and he/she impressed you with a wealth of knowledge? Perhaps your child surpassed peers with all the facts and trivia, whether it was about history, geography, movies, space, dinosaurs, or whatever else he/she had a special interest in. As parents, we tend to create a future story and timeline about our children’s future. We imagine them as scientists, paleontologists, or historians. We are so proud of their knowledge and achievements that sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the story and create unrealistic expectations of what the future will be like. It may be hard to accept that the road to a college degree may be a lot longer than originally envisioned, or that the road may lead to somewhere else entirely.
A parent coach works with parents to help them gain clarity about what the present looks like and reframes expectations to be more realistic to meet their student where they presently are. Letting go of the timeline and focusing on present successes and challenges creates a more positive outlook and benefits both the parent and the student. Young adults are already feeling the pressure to follow their peers, but in reality, what difference does it really make a few years from now? Your student will achieve goals at his/her own pace, however long it takes. Wishing it to be faster or pressuring a student to push beyond their capabilities will not only result in negative outcomes but will affect family relationships as well.
2. Improved Communication and Family Relationships
When parents are asked what their top goals are for their student, the answer invariably is that they want their transitioning young adult to be healthy and happy in an independent life.
It can be very challenging to adjust communication styles as children transition from child to teen to emerging adult. It takes more than patience to speak to your teen or young adult in an adult manner when developmentally he/she is still behaving as a juvenile.
Positive communication starts with you, the parent. In order to get the respect and cooperation you are looking for, you need to understand what your student is going through on a daily basis. Having a coach facilitates the process so that you can gain perspective on the current situation without getting caught up in the history of the relationship.
Raising a child on the spectrum can be very challenging, but having your own coach supporting, encouraging, and guiding you through could make all the difference in creating a positive, healthy, and mature relationship with your young adult.
3. Positive Outcomes
Ultimately, every parent wants the best possible future for his/her child. Although the path may not be smooth or direct, having a parent coach can ease the transition to adulthood for the whole family. Having each member of the family understanding each other’s perspective leads to more acceptance, stronger relationships, and a foundation of trust and open communication. As a result, your young adult feels safe to take risks and go out into the world to be the productive, happy son or daughter you know he/she can be. It takes time, but with patience and an open heart and mind, anything is possible!