Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder tend to have repetitive behaviors. Developing a natural rhythm and routine in their day can help them to feel safe and secure in their environment.
Knowing what to expect from the day ahead can alleviate some of the stress of an already overstimulating world. Today we are sharing some ideas to promote independence in your child.
Help Your Child Create A Self Care Routine
Teaching kids to take care of their hygiene is a key life skill for them to develop that fosters independence.
Of course, there are a wide range of abilities for children on the autism spectrum. One child may be ready to start learning hygiene skills at a very early age, where as another child may not be ready until they are much older.
Starting as young as possible for each individual will promote independence and help them to establish a daily routine and schedule that will help them thrive.
Teaching basic skills like how to wash their hands, or how to comb their hair, or brush their teeth are all great places to start.
You can start by modeling the action. You can have them stand at the sink to wash their hands and break it into easy steps while miming the action next to them. First turn on the water, next put the soap on your hands, then rub your hands, then rinse, etc…
Practicing on a daily basis will help them to eventually master the skill and then you can move on to the next skill.
Let Them Choose a New Chore To Master
Getting kids involved in caring for their space is always a good idea. It promotes self-confidence and self-esteem.
Depending on their age and ability, the chores they will be able to learn to perform could range from moving a dust rag around on a table or wood door, to more complex chores like washing a floor, or folding towels.
Breaking a chore down into small, manageable steps will help them become a master of their new endeavor.
For example, if they want to learn how to fold a towel:
Step 1: Lay the towel flat on the table
Step 2: Fold the towel in half
Step 3: Fold the towel in half again
Your towel if folded!
Of course, there are a ton of ways to fold a towel, so the first decision you have to make before you teach a new chore, is what is the simplest way to achieve this chore? Should I teach them to roll the towel? Which direction should I teach them to fold it?
No matter what your decision is, be consistent and every time you practice the chore do it the same exact way or, if they’re able, let them decide which way they want to fold the towels.
You could take a picture of each step and create a little chart of how to do any specific chore for them to refer to.
Once they’ve mastered a chore, they can choose a new chore they’d like to attempt. Make it fun!
Have Them Help Prepare Their Meals
Mealtime happens every day. What a great opportunity to encourage kids to help prepare their food. Again, the varying degrees of teaching meal prep skills will vary widely.
Maybe they choose which apple they’d like to eat from the bowl. Perhaps they use a wooden spoon to mix the cupcake batter, or maybe they are ready to prepare something using the microwave?
No matter what it is, getting them involved in meal prep even in a small way will help in working towards the goal of them gaining independence.
Let Them Do The Shopping
Having kids help with the shopping can be a super rewarding experience for them. As with all the items on this list, the degree which they will be able to help will depend on each individuals needs, age, and ability.
You could begin with one simple shopping task, like having them pick out the bananas. Maybe that is their contribution at the market every Monday? Letting them do the same part of the shopping trip will build confidence in their shopping abilities and if you can do it on the same day every week, it gives them something to look forward to.
Start small and add on to their responsibility over time. Maybe they are ready to help put groceries on the belt? Maybe they can find the vegetables you buy every week? Or, maybe they get to pick out the cereal every week?
For older, higher functioning kids, a super independent task is letting them go into a shop and purchase something for themselves.
Around age 11, I started letting my boy go into our neighborhood bakery once a week to purchase his pizza strip for his lunch box.
I was able to conveniently park right alongside the building, that way I didn’t have to worry about him crossing any roads so it wasn’t a safety issue.
The glow on his face after doing this for the first time was priceless and all I needed to see to know, this was something that gave him a great sense of pride and independence.
It’s been two years since he first walked into that bakery alone, and he still goes in once a week—and he still feels proud every time.
Let Them Make Their Own Choices
There are multiple ways to get to where we’re going. Giving kids choices empowers them and gives them the sense that they have control in their life.
This can be as simple as holding two different snacks and having them choose which they’d like. For older kids and teens, it can be bigger decisions, like, what kind of skills are they interested in learning? Maybe they want to learn how to paint, or learn an exercise routine?
For a child with ASD, being able to make choices makes them feel powerful and will boost confidence in themselves. Finding ways to offer choices as early on as possible will not only promote independence, it will empower them and give them a sense of satisfaction--something we all desire.
Changing Lives. together