Help disabled young adults develop money handling skills

Many parents of learning disabled young adults are concerned about their son or daughter’s weak skills in money handling. They are rightfully concerned about their ability to make purchases in stores, such as having enough money at the register, being able to count out appropriate amounts of cash and knowing whether or not they have been given the correct change.

For some young people with learning disabilities, accomplishing these skills may not be possible. Poor working memory, processing delays, anxiety and motor difficulties are some of the disabilities that can make successfully handling cash an unattainable goal.

Fortunately, with proper training, careful use of a debit card can make money handling a much less stressful life skill. With the use of a debit card, there is no anxiety about having enough money at the register, no worry about counting out money or getting correct change. If you have determined that handling cash is too difficult for your son or daughter, here are some ways to help your young adult adapt to using a debit card to successfully manage money.


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  • get your young adult a debit card
  • explain use of the bank’s mobile app
  • allow your kids to use the debit card for purchases
  • practice making purchases
  • decrease your assistance over time

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  • forget to teach the value of money
  • set kids free too soon
  • offer an allowance without requiring kids to earn it
  • make earning money unrealistically easy

[publishpress_authors_data]'s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do get your young adult a debit card

Open a checking account with a debit card for your son or daughter. Deposit an amount equal to the expected expenses that he or she will have during the week. Explain the rules of using the debit card, such as keeping the card and the PIN safe, using the card only as you have approved and checking the balance before all purchases.

Your son or daughter also should learn how debit cards work (any money spent comes right out of the account) and how debit cards differ from credit cards. Talk about the adult responsibilities that he/she will have as a result of your trust.

Do explain use of the bank’s mobile app

Teach your young adults how to use the bank’s mobile app to access account information. Impress upon them that before every use of the debit card, checking the balance in the account is vital.

Do allow your kids to use the debit card for purchases

Your kids should start by using the debit card for small purchases you have previously made for them. Start by taking them shopping for a particular item. They should locate the price of the item, compare the price of the item to their account balance by checking the mobile app and deciding if there is enough money in the account to make the purchase.

With your guidance, they can practice using the card at the register. They should practice at several stores, since every terminal uses a different interface. In time, your son or daughter should see that while the basic information asked for at the terminal is the same from store to store, there are different ways of presenting the same questions.

Do practice making purchases

Continue to take your kids shopping. Progress to having them locate several items and using their smartphone calculator to add up the cost of all items. Repeat the same procedure, checking the balance on the mobile app on their smartphone and comparing the balance to the total cost of the items to answer the same question: Is there enough money in the account to make the purchase?

Do decrease your assistance over time

As you become more confident in your young adult's ability to handle the responsibility–and they become more confident in their ability to handle the transactions–decrease your involvement. Let them shop on their own. If they make a mistake, help them learn from it. Hopefully in time, they will be able to successfully use the debit card for almost all of their money handling needs.

[publishpress_authors_data]'s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not forget to teach the value of money

Many parents worry that their kids have not learned the value of money. Try some real life training to make this point. For example, set up an economy. Determine some task that will earn kids an amount of money that would allow them to purchase a small item they want. Make sure the task is something that will require real effort on their part but will not take too much time. Have them work at the task to completion, pay them the agreed upon amount right away and take them to the store to purchase the item. Repeat this exercise as often as needed.

In time, the immediate result to their labor should help them experience the intrinsic value of money: How much labor is involved in earning money. Hopefully, the next time you have to say no, they will have gained some insight into why.

Do not set kids free too soon

It is important to ensure that your son or daughter can handle a variety of transactions successfully before you set them free with the debit card. It is also important to be sure that your young adult has gained a sense of responsibility and will use the card only for the items and amounts that you have approved. This process takes time, so make the investment.

Do not offer an allowance without requiring kids to earn it

Start early. Help kids learn the value of money by requiring that they take responsibility for chores to earn their allowance. You will not only help them learn the value of money, but will also instill in them a sense of how a family works together to take care of each other–and their home.

Do not make earning money unrealistically eas

To learn the value of money, the value of the effort must be equally important. If you set the bar too low, your kids will learn that they can get what they want with little effort. This is not a message that will help them when they get out into the real world of work.


For young people with learning disabilities, understanding the value of money and being able to manage basic money handling situations are very important steps in achieving a sense of independence. Although these processes may take some time to effect change, it will be time well spent if your son or daughter learns how to manage this most important aspect of independence.

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