By Arlyn Roffman, Ph.D.
Becoming a responsible consumer is essential for adjusting to adult life, yet many adults with learning disabilities (LD) rank handling money and banking as the most difficult among the problems they encounter. Problems in this area are often tied to specific characteristics of LD or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). This article describes common pitfalls and offers parents strategies for providing teens with LD or AD/HD a foundation of money management know-how necessary for independent living.
The table below illustrates some of the ways various characteristics of LD and AD/HD can result in financial challenges.
|Learning or attention problem||Challenges when managing money|
|Impulsivity||Problems with impulse buying beyond the limit of one's budget|
|Memory problems||Difficulty remembering to record bank transactions (for example, ATM cash withdrawals)|
|Temporal problems||Issues with remembering to pay bills on time|
|Organizational problems||Difficulty gathering all the items (monthly statement, check register, calculator, etc.) necessary to balance one's checkbook|
|Distractibility||Trouble maintaining concentration during the process of reviewing one's checking account|
|Visual discrimination||Tendency to make errors in calculation due to number inversions (for example, writing "61" or "19" instead of "16")|
|Spatial issues||Tendency to misalign numbers in the check register columns, leading to computation errors|
|Visual figure-ground problems (focusing on one image against a busy background)||Problems focusing on individual lines of the monthly bank statement|
|Reading||Trouble reading store signs (or price tags), notices from the bank, and contracts (for instance, for membership to a gym)|
|Spelling||Difficulty spelling numbers correctly when writing out checks|
|Math||Problems performing mental math (estimating how much an item on sale at 25% off will cost, for instance, or knowing how much change to expect when making purchases); difficulty performing calculations involved in reconciling a checking account|
Money management skills can be introduced very early, with children in the lower elementary school grades learning the value of the coins and currency they save in their piggybanks and having your guidance when deciding how to spend their savings. As your child with LD or AD/HD matures, you should gradually introduce more complex skills, such as budgeting and managing a checking account.
Here are some strategies for teaching consumer skills and money management during your child's middle and high school years:
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