Teaching My Son on the Autism Spectrum to Manage Money

About two years ago, Dominic’s private speech therapist starting teaching him the process of when you do chores, you get an allowance. You then save up that money and buy something you really want. In Dominic’s case, it has been LEGOs.  If you have a child/adult that likes LEGOs, you know how expensive they are! Sometimes, it has taken Dominic three months to save up enough money (he gets $5.00/week).

About a month or so ago, I took a look around our house and I felt like we were living in a LEGO factory. They were literally everywhere! I couldn’t walk anywhere in our family room without stepping on one. If you have ever stepped on a LEGO piece with the arch of your foot, you know that doesn’t feel too good! I knew we needed to take a break from buying them for a while.

Dominic’s speech therapist gave us the option of taking part of his allowance to our local bank and have him deposit it into his bank account, but I want Dominic to get the full experience of filling out the deposit slip and waiting his turn in line to see the bank teller. At our bank, you have to make an appointment to go into the lobby. Dominic could make his deposit at the drive-thru, but it isn’t quite the same as doing it in person.

A few weeks ago on a Saturday, I started the discussion with Dominic about how we are lucky to have food on the table and a roof over our heads. I explained to him that not everyone has that.  I then asked him if he would be willing to donate part of his allowance once a month to church. Without hesitation, he said yes. I had him grab the glass jar we keep his money in that he has earned from his allowance. I told him that he could choose $5.00 up to $15.00 to give to church. He picked $15.00. Dominic keeps a ledger in a notebook of what date he gets his allowance and the amount, so he always has a running “tally” of how much he has. We subtracted the $15.00 from the grand total. I then found an envelope, wrote a note, tucked it into the envelope and put the $15.00 in it.

Like many people with autism, Dominic is very visual. He watched every single part of the process. We typically go to the 5:00 p.m. Mass at our church. I made sure I had the envelope in my purse and when we got inside, I had him put the envelope in the offering box mounted on the wall. Dominic has watched me for years filling out a check and putting it in an envelope, taking it to church and putting it in the collection basket.

According to Kiplinger.com, there are three ways to instill enduring financial values in children, “teach them how to save, teach them how to spend and teach them how to give.”  Dominic turned 16 at the end of July. He has his Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting a little less than two weeks from today. At last year’s IEP, we started the discussion of Dominic working on his vocational skills with the ultimate goal of getting a job, so I know we will be resuming that conversation this year. The skills Dominic has learned from getting an allowance will apply to when he starts earning his own money at a job. The hubby and I will make sure he continues to donate once a month to church. We feel it is extremely important for Dominic to “pay it forward.”

Dominic holding a plate of apple muffins.

Dominic has been working very hard since the end of July baking and cooking different foods. This afternoon, it was Apple Crumb Muffins. Every time I mention to my husband that he is eating something Dominic made, he says, “he has a future in the restaurant industry!” The muffins were the eighth thing Dominic has made since I started keeping a “journal” of what he has made (another great idea from his private speech therapist). I think they look pretty yummy, don’t you? If you are wondering why Dominic’s grin was so wide, it was because I told him he could have two muffins!

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