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Teaching Basic Money Skills to Children with Autism

Recognizing and counting money are skills required in one of the basic functional concepts that they will use during the course of the child's life

The best things in life may be free… but most things still cost money! Buying a favourite toy, going to the movies and eating food all costs money. Children may not understand the concept of money in terms of cost and what is considered good value, but most of them know that money is needed to buy things they want.

Recognizing and counting money are skills required in one of the basic functional concepts that they will use during the course of their life - money skills! Money not only gives them access to things they want to purchase but also builds a foundation for understanding vital numeration such as counting, decimals and percentage.

Before introducing money concepts to your child, ensure that your child has:

  • Strong understanding of addition and subtraction

  • Knowledge of skip-counting and patterning (eg. 5, 10, 15, 20)

  • Consistent matching and sorting skills generalised to different items

Practical Money Skills

1) Money recognition Before a child can start counting money, they need to correctly identify different denominations: 5₵, 10₵, 20₵, 50₵, $1, $2, $5 and so on.

Tip: Use only real coins as it will help them to generalise to the real world

  • Matching

Place 4 different coins/dollar notes on the table and get children to match the values accordingly. Slowly increase to 6 or 8 when the child shows consistency and accuracy in matching.

  • Sorting

Use a transparent disposable cup for each denomination and label the values accordingly. Place a bunch of mixed coins on the table in front of the child to see if they can distinguish them accordingly.

Continue to go through the different denominations repeatedly until your child can tell you the name and value of each coin when he/she sees it. To further test their knowledge, you should try mixing up the order in which you show the coins. Start with coins first before moving to dollars.

2) Counting Money

Counting money should begin with a single denomination. Start with the smaller denominations and when they are confident, move on to the bigger ones. You may start by providing:

  • Number lines chart

Provide a 1 to 100 number line and when you are counting 5₵, have your child place the coin on every 5s and get them to recite out loud. This multi-sensory experience will help them understand the concept of skip counting and money.

  • Coin templates

Create your counting template by taking pictures of the actual coin or retrieving an exact sample from the Internet. This will help your child in generalising to the real world. You may cut or laminate the coin cut-outs of different denominations accordingly. Give them to your child and have them count out loud. You can even jot down a value on the board, eg. 40₵, and have the children pick out either four 10₵s or two 20₵s to paste on the board.

When your child understands the concept, you may continue using the coin template to teach them the concept of receiving change.

3) Association of giving and receiving in return AND the concept of change

If your child is starting Primary education soon, it means that he/she needs to buy food from the canteen and purchase items from the bookstore occasionally. Therefore, it is the best time to teach children the nature of monetary transactions; namely, the exchange of goods and money between people and merchants.

You can start by role playing small money transactions at home. For example, you can place price tags on different types of candies and get the child to buy the one they want. Allow them to choose the candy and count out the needed coins. When they get more proficient, you can also switch roles and pay with surplus money, so that your child has the opportunity to count or receive change.

For example, provide your child with an amount greater (eg. $2) than the price of the candy ($1.20) and have them count the change given aloud in intervals of 10₵ starting with the price of the candy until they reach the amount of money they initially paid.

For example:

Cost of candy: $1.20

Change received: 80₵

Child checks by counting from $1.20 in 10-cent denominations: $1.20 --> $1.30 --> $1.40, $1.50...till they reach the original amount of money they paid ($2). If they run out of coins before they reach the original sum, then they have been short changed! Or if they’ve gotten more, the change was too much. Of course, for more advanced learners, you can also teach them to do subtraction of the cost of candy immediately from the total sum they initially paid!

Practice this game over and again with different items!

Tip: Ensure that you have a huge pile of “money” to “pay” with, preferably with a variety of denominations for practice purposes!

Make it real

When your child has mastered the basics of money through the lessons and pretend-play at home, take him/her to real supermarkets and shops so that they can see and spend in everyday situations. It will likely be so much more fun and exciting!

Allow them to pick out something they like from their favourite store and complete the transaction on their own. If they are struggling, just help them out! The more practice they get from handling money matters in real-life, the more confident they will be!

Let us know what are some other ways you have taught your kids how to deal with money matters!

Written by Jermaine Tan.


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