Tell Me About The Money

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By Dan Coulter

What can we do today to keep our children with Asperger Syndrome from being cheated out of their money in the future?

It’s a harsh reality that individuals with Asperger Syndrome are at higher risk than the general population of being manipulated into trusting people they shouldn’t.

Know of anyone with Asperger Syndrome who has been talked into making disastrous investments or co-signing loans for someone who skipped and left them with significant debt? I do.

I had first-hand experience with this on a small scale when I was in 11. I had moved to a new city just before school let out for the summer, and met some other boys there. In June, four of us started taking the bus downtown on Saturdays to see movies. One of the four didn’t have much money, and the others talked me into paying for his bus fare and movie ticket. But none of them ever chipped in. After a couple of Saturdays, I realized I was just a source of funding and bailed on the bus trips, and the "friends."

If you find it difficult to make friends, it can be painfully hard to accept that the few friends you have are just using you. We need to keep this in mind when we talk to our children about trust and finance.

First, we need to teach children how money works. Because children with Asperger Syndrome don’t intuitively pick up on some things that others learn by observation, it’s easy to think they know more about using money than they do.

We can help them understand:

  • How we earn money to buy the things in our houses and the relative amounts things cost.

  • The difference between buying things we want and buying things we need.

  • How advertisements and salespeople will often make exaggerated claims -- and how to read "the fine print."

  • How to keep track of what they spend and make a budget to plan future spending.

  • How to shop. You can teach this on trips to the grocery and other stores by giving your child a running commentary of what you’re doing and explaining how you’re comparing products and assessing prices. Having your children find items in the store and read you prices on packages or shelves can help engage them in the process.

  • How to check out. Explain this process also. If something else catches your children’s interest while you’re checking out, they are probably not aware of steps that seem obvious to you. Paying in cash and having them hand the money to the checkout clerk at the right time can make them part of the transaction. Teaching them to check the receipt the clerk hands them can help ensure they are not overcharged.

  • How bank accounts and credit card and debit card accounts work.

  • How borrowing money and paying interest works.

  • How saving money and earning interest works.

  • How saving money over time will enable them to buy more costly items. Beginning in elementary school, having children earn an allowance by doing chores can help with this. You might even have them open a savings account at a bank or credit union.

  • How signing a contract creates obligations -- and why adults seek advice from lawyers or other experts before signing contracts such as car loans, mortgages or lease agreements.

  • How insurance works.

Second, we need to teach our children about the social side of money, including:

  • How and why people buy things for each other, including exchanging gifts and how much it is appropriate to spend in different situations.

  • How and why people lend small amounts of money to each other – and how someone who always winds up paying or loaning (without being paid back with money or in other ways) is being taken advantage of.

  • Where to go for advice before making decisions that involve a significant amount of money. You might want to teach children to consult someone in a “trust chain.” That is, come to you for advice, or consult someone you’ve told them they can trust, such as another relative or a lawyer or financial advisor. This helps sons and daughters learn to trust people whom others trust – and makes it less likely they will be talked into making bad decisions by a “friend.”

  • How to interact with people and make and keep friends. Mastering critical social skills will give your children better tools to make real friends and to evaluate who they can trust. There are books, videos, and classes that can help, but any social skills training should include regular practice interacting with others.

It is a reality that people with Asperger Syndrome have a greater risk of being taken advantage of as they become more independent and make more of their own decisions. But that doesn’t mean we have to let things play out that way.

That’s a great thing about reality. With time and effort, we can change it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the author of the DVD, "Manners for the Real World: Basic Social Skills" and the advice book, “Life in the Asperger Lane.” You can find more articles on his website: Copyright 2012 Dan Coulter All Rights Reserved Used By Permission

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