What My Kid With Down Syndrome is Learning From Earning an Allowance

I wrote earlier this year about how all 3 of my kids have earned allowance and what they learned from that experience.

For all 3 kids, allowance has been a valuable teaching tool.  Some of the lessons Jessie, who has Down syndrome, learned were the same as her siblings.  But there are some ways that I feel the benefits were different for her.  Practice with thinking skills, learning to prioritize, counting money, these are just some of the skills Jessie needed practice with that my other kids learned more easily.  I am always looking for ways that we can use everyday life to teach her the skills she needs.

Thinking Skills Related to Money and Purchasing

The first ways that allowance helped Jessie learn was related to thinking about money.

  • Learning to prioritize her wants –  just like with my other kids, it seemed Jessie was constantly asking for things.  Initially, it was wasn’t a very prioritized list, just I want, I want, I want.  When she began having money of her own we would talk through her choices and whether she had enough or would need to save.  This process helped her think through do I really want what is right here in front of me in Walmart at the moment or do I really want “insert item she’s been talking about”?
  • Practice making choices –  It’s important for all kids to have the learning opportunity of making choices.  The process of thinking through what she really wants to do with her money has been a maturing experience for her.  Having her own money and deciding on a regular basis how to spend it has been one of the best things we’ve ever done.  This is true whether you make your child earn the money or just give them a set amount to manage.

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Keeping up With her Money

Learning to keep up with her money – this has been different than with my other two kids.  Learning the value of money and understanding that you have to protect your money (or phone) from theft has been a whole ‘nother thing with Jessie.

  • When Jessie goes places where she might want or need her money she carries a crossbody style purse.  It doesn’t slip off her shoulder like other styles and she is less likely to sit it down somewhere.  She doesn’t ever carry a large quantity of money with her if I’m not there, just in case, this is an area where she is still learning.  She does pretty well, but she doesn’t really understand the concept of someone wanting to steal her money or phone.  She’s doing well about not leaving it, but not so aware of making it less likely to be stolen.
  • At home – Jessie loves purses and bags.  Really loves them, so she has a lot. Thankfully, she does have just one wallet.  She moves her wallet from one purse to another or on bowling day she puts her wallet in a zippered pocket of her bowling bag.   When I ask where her wallet is, she often says I don’t know.  This is definitely an area of work in progress. Thankfully, she has a good memory, so we can backtrack and figure it out together.  I see that as a good thinking skill practice opportunity too.

Counting and Learning the Value of Money

Math and money seem to be an area of difficulty for people with Down syndrome.  I don’t have preset expectations of what we will achieve in this area.  I just try to find ways for Jessie to learn and to practice and in the end wherever we land, I will be content.   I know this though, workbooks and text books are not going to be the primary way she will learn about money.  It’s just too abstract.  But cash in her hand, she can learn to count money and she is motivated to do so.

  • Counting Money – Jessie doesn’t “count on” well yet.  She needs practice counting money and she is motivated to know how much money she has available to spend.  When she has made a purchase or earned more allowance that is a good opportunity for us to recount her money.  Even if I might remember how much money she now has, if she doesn’t, we count her money.
  • Learning what things cost and how much money you need to purchase – practice, practice, practice.  Even if it isn’t money she has earned, every purchase she makes with cash in her hand allows her to get practice with counting money and knowing what things cost.  For example:
  1. Rather than buying Jessie a drink or snack from the machine, giving her money and letting her make the purchase does a couple of things.  She learns that if the cost is $1.25 for a drink she usually puts 2 one dollar bills in and gets change back.  This is true for any cash purchase.  I try to remember to let Jessie pay when I have cash (even if she isn’t using her own money) for this reason.
  2. With practice making purchases she learns a better understanding of the value of money, like that $50 is a lot more than $2.  In our case, a WWE game that comes out once a year is a larger purchase.  She had birthday money but not enough.  She had to wait and earn allowance for several weeks to be able to buy the game she wanted.   She knew on a number line that 50 was more than 2 or 10 but understood much better the value of $50 after this experience. 

Using Money as a Motivator

We all like to spend money and buy things.  We all have to earn it.   We are willing to go to work because otherwise we have no money.  I use Jessie’s allowance as a way to motivate Jessie to do her chores somewhat cheerfully.  At least without a crazy amount of nagging.

We don’t have a very sophisticated chart or chores method.  It could be better, but I’m just not all that good at it. Our method is a good example of the fact that a less than perfect system can still be good for teaching and motivating 🙂

Jessie’s Allowance and Responsibilities

Jessie earns $5 per week.  She is expected to:

  • She folds all the towels and washcloths. She is learning to sort the bathroom washcloths from the kitchen ones and put them away.  We’re inconsistent on the last part, because of multiple layers of decisions….which ones go to each bathroom  and to kitchen isn’t all that clear.  I need to simplify the process if she’s to be independent with this part.
  • She doesn’t use any chemicals, but once a week she wipes her bathroom counter and sink.
  • She is expected to pick up her things from other areas of the house and put them away.  Often, this is with a reminder.  I’m okay with that for now.
  • She puts away her own laundry.  She brings her dirty laundry basket to the laundry room when asked.  I haven’t been ready to teach her to do her laundry because of the number of bbq sauce and ketchup stains on her clothes.  She packs her own swim bag twice a week, folding the clothes she puts in there and she re-hangs clothes in her closet when they aren’t dirty but have been worn a short time.  If not for the stain issue she would be capable of learning to do her laundry at this point.  I just haven’t been ready to go there because of the stains.
  • She feeds the dogs and cat once a day (reminded) and gives them water as needed when reminded.
  • Once a week, she takes the trash from the 2 bathrooms and her bedroom and puts them in the larger kitchen trash can or asks for help to transfer to a bag.
  • Once a week on whatever day I’m cleaning (changes depending on her activity schedule) she is expected to shake some rugs out and do a little sweeping.  She doesn’t sweep perfectly, this is more for practice than the help it provides.
  • After grocery shopping she takes toilet paper to each bathroom and shampoos etc to the appropriate bathrooms.  Learning where more groceries go is something we are working on just a little.

In general, she is expected to be a helpful part of the family with a decent attitude.  We have tried and haven’t been successful with sticking with a written plan. Jessie’s activities change seasonally, and I’m a fly by the seat of my pants girl, so sometimes we don’t always do things on the same day of the week.

Currently, I will write her chores on a white board, she takes a picture of it with her phone and she carries it around the house with her.  She watches videos on her phone  while she does her chores.  We’re super chill around here which might not work for everyone.

Since Jessie loves her phone so much and it has been a helpful tool  in many other ways I am working on a way to use a scheduling app on her phone with reminders instead of me reminding her. I will share when we get the kinks worked out with that.

Final and random thoughts….

Don’t get hung up on details, just start somewhere with giving your child a chance to practice skills related to thinking about and using money.

Keep the main focus you’re trying to teach the main focus.  Don’t worry about chores done perfectly. You’re working toward your child learning to be a part of the team of maintaining the home and motivating them to earn money.  It’s hard to accept what kids can do initially, but important for them to get to practice.  A couple of years ago, Jessie’s folded towels made me a little crazy inside, now her folded towels look pretty darn good.

Jessie get paid allowance on Thursdays every week.  She likes keeping up with her scheduled activities, including when she’s getting paid.  If I forget she will remind me or she might mention on Wednesday that tomorrow is her “pay day”.  It’s just one more factor in helping her learn about what happens when and anticipating what comes next.

Hope you’re having a great week!

Josette

 

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