Everyone can struggle with their finances. If kids and young adults are not adequately taught how to manage their money, it can lead to poor financial health as they get older. Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can have an even harder time understanding how to handle their finances if they are not taught these skills at a young age.
Those with ASD are often fully capable of doing the same things as everyone else; it just might take a little more work and a little more time for them to learn these skills. So parents need to instill healthy financial habits in their children with ASD from a young age.
Though talking about money with children may feel awkward when they seem too young to really understand what it means to have finances, they can understand more than you think. Allowing children, especially those with ASD, to have more responsibilities can help them develop healthy habits and learn more quickly how to be independent and self-sufficient—including teaching them how to handle money responsibly.
How to Teach Children With Autism About Money
Many kids grow up only to find they don’t really know how best to manage their finances. Though financial hardship is something many adults struggle with, it’s not something we think to teach our children about until it’s too late and mistakes have already been made. Unfortunately, people with ASD are even more likely to face financial hardship if they are not taught healthy money habits from an early age.
Though it might seem like a challenge, teaching your child with ASD about money is easier than you think. You don’t need to sit them down and give them some big lecture about money and financial responsibility, at least not while they are still young. To start, all you need to help them understand are the basics. From there, you can naturally progress towards teaching them about more complicated topics as they get older.
1. Start With the Basics
Honestly, all parents should be teaching their children basic money skills. Instilling an interest in money and how it works at an early age can help your children grow up to develop a more thorough understanding of their finances. To start, practice money skills with them, such as identifying the various denominations (i.e., pennies, nickels, dimes) and how to count them, add them together, and subtract them.
2. Real-Life Scenarios
Once your child has a good grasp on identifying different coins and bills and how to count them, try role-playing with them so they can see how money works in action. For example, you can pretend you’re grocery shopping and have them use real money to pay you for their purchase. Don’t be afraid to let them do this when you are out shopping as well. Try taking them somewhere where you can use small amounts of cash and have them count out how much they will need to buy something, like a drink or a snack at a gas station, for example.
3. Give Them an Allowance
Once they are old enough, establish an allowance for when they help out with chores. This is the first step to teaching your child with ASD how money is earned and then how they can save it to buy things they want or need. They might be very excited to immediately spend what money they earn, and that’s okay. Let them do this at first—you want them to learn responsibility and independence. It’s their money, let them spend it how they would like.
However, the next steps would be to show them what they can buy if they were to save their money and not spend it right away. For example, you could say something like, “You can spend this now, or you could wait until you’ve earned a little more and buy something bigger. It’s up to you.” You could then give them examples of other things they could spend their money on if they saved up. This helps teach them smart money habits and how to save for short or long-term goals.
4. Open a Bank Account
Once they understand the importance of saving their money, you can take your child with you to the bank to open an account of their own. This helps transition them into learning more complex financial topics. Children with ASD often do very well with continuity, so try setting up a time every month for them to go with you and deposit the money they’ve earned.
You can use this time with them to start teaching them about the specifics of banking, such as deposits, withdraws, balances, how interest accrues, and debit and credit cards. Helping them understand credit is especially important, as abusing credit cards is often how people find themselves struggling with debt. Once they start earning more money, you can help them open a savings account as well to further instill healthy financial habits and the importance of saving.
Financial Planning and Autism
People with ASD tend to focus on the now, so it is helpful to teach them the importance of planning for their future. This will not only help them better understand the financial decisions they need to make for themselves, but it can also help you talk to them about what will happen when you are no longer around to support them. Significant changes and losses can be very difficult with people with ASD, but it can help if you prepare them early for what could happen. Talking about financial planning for the future will teach them the importance of independence and responsibility so they can take care of themselves when they grow up.
Everyone can benefit from learning more about money at an early age, but it is especially helpful for children with ASD. Children with autism may not learn things as quickly or at the same pace as other kids, or they might have an affinity for learning a lot of things even faster than others. Either way, it’s important to teach your children with ASD about money early on, so they are prepared to handle their own finances independently when they get older.