Six Ways to Teach Kids with Special Needs about Money
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or other neurological differences may have trouble wrapping their heads around the concept of money. Many of us, even as adults, ask the question, “What gives money value?” Teaching your child how to count and manage their own funds can lend them a sense of independence and confidence. Here’s how to get started:
Introduce your child to the concept of money early.
As early as possible, introduce your child to the way you handle money in everyday life. Narrate to your child how you spend money to buy things at the store, how you count money to make change. Explain to your child how you use money to pay bills, which supply necessities like water, electricity, gas, etc. This will help your child better understand the different ways money is used. The earlier you expose your children to the concept of money, the more knowledge they can build as they approach adolescence and adulthood.
Use social stories to explain abstract concepts to your child.
Social stories can break down the concept of money into smaller, more digestible pieces for your child. Use illustrations to help your child place themselves in money-related situations. For example, craft a social story around the experience of going to a store your child likes. Guide them through feelings that may arise in different scenarios: how will we feel when it’s time to buy something we like? When it’s not time to buy something we like?
Teach your child how to identify different coins and bills.
Give your child their own real coins to count out. Practice identifying different coins and bills with your child, and offer rewards as incentives. Coin counting not only teaches practical skills, but can also help your child with basic math. Once your child has counted all of the change in your pocket, for instance, go to the store and help them discover what that amount of money can buy.
Assist your child while they make their own purchases.
Helping your child spend their own money will teach them its value. Your child may feel incentivized to earn more money by taking on more responsibilities around the house, or even finding a part-time job. Start by accompanying your child to the register, handing them the money, and allowing them to hand the money to the cashier. Eventually you may feel comfortable watching your child make their own purchase from a safe distance.
Help your child find work and earn their own income.
Part-time jobs teach your child how to interview for positions, how to maintain a work schedule, and how to manage their own income. As your child reaches adulthood, help them find work with an employer you trust. Look for companies specifically hiring young adults with physical disabilities or cognitive differences.
Teach your child that it is okay to recognize their own limitations.
We all have run into complications at the register. Teach your child that if they are having a hard time counting money or finding the right bills, it is okay to take their time before checking out of the store. Teach them the “next dollar” method, i.e. giving the cashier $2 for an item costing $1.98. And remind them that it is okay to ask questions, either to you or to store employees.