By teaching a developmentally delayed individual under your charge how to properly budget, you prepare him to take control of his own finances and better navigate the world. The complexity of these lessons will depend in large part upon how high functioning the learner is as well as the learner’s age, with older learners requiring a more in-depth understanding of the topic.
Discuss the importance of budgeting. Don’t dive right into the budgeting lesson assuming that the learner knows what budgeting is. Instead, explicitly define it, explaining that to budget is to make a plan for how you are going to spend your money. Have a conversation with the learner about why this is important, likely getting her excited about the process.
Keep it simple. Particularly if the individual is low-functioning, don’t jump into too much detail. Instead, focus on the most pertinent parts of the budgeting process: tracking income and planning expenses. If the learner appears to understand these basics, build upon them.
Create a clear pencil and paper system for the learner to use. While many budgeters use computerized systems, starting with a pencil and paper one is a wise choice when teaching a developmentally delayed individual, as if you try to use a technology-rich system, your lesson may turn into one more focused on technology than budgeting. Start by having the learner divide a sheet of paper down the center and write his income on one side and his expenses on the other, explaining to him that the two must balance out.
Apply the process to the learner's life. Instead of using generic numbers, show the learner that budgeting is relevant to her by having her keep her paystubs and receipts and using these authentic digits when practicing the process.
Praise the learner for his successes. Because budgeting can be tedious, praise is an effective way to keep the learner excited and on track. A few kind words that pertain to the learner’s success can go a long way in making the learner feel proud of himself.
Check back in as the learner applies the process independently. Ask the learner to keep a budget for a month, then review it with her, helping her correct any errors and continue to build her budgeting skills.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.