“Autonomy is different from independence. It means acting with choice.” - Daniel H. Pink
As parents or caregiver of a child on the spectrum, life is already a roller coaster. Your hands are full taking care and managing everything else. The smallest tasks seem like challenges and everything has to be micromanaged. Over time, worries plagues you over what will happen to your child after you gone and it preys on your mind. Who will take care of them, how they will manage and who will support them are thoughts that bother all parents and guardians.
The solution to these worrying thoughts is to develop the life skills of these children from an early age with time. These self-care skills for autistic children include personal hygiene, cleaning, handling money and dealing with the outside world. Just as the range of abilities of those living with some form of Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD) is wide, the levels of self-care skills adopted by each child also vary from child to child. These skills have to be modified on case to case basis for each child.
Here are some ways to help children develop self-care skills with time:
1. Checklist. It’s advisable to prepare a daily checklist of the routine to be followed and give it to the child. Of course, keep a copy to follow-up and keep an eye on the child.
2. Simplify all tasks. Break up any task into a series of mini-tasks leading to the main task being completed. For example, making a sandwich seems like an easy thing to do for neurotypical people like you and me. This is not the case for a child with ASD. Therefore clear brief instructions such as "Get two pieces of bread and set them on the counter, Get an orange marmalade bottle from cabinet, get a knife, open the bottle, take a knife from the tray, spread the marmalade on the bread slice with the knife, join the two pieces of bread, etc."
3. Introduce self-care skills into a daily routine as early as possible so that these skills can be honed and refined with time.
4. Improve their communication skills. You can improve their communication by helping them build skills and provide tools to express feelings and desires.
Here are some support/aids you can use to develop self-care skills in your children:
Visual aids – Pictures of each step of the skill can be put in the location where the skill is supposed to occur. Repeated demonstration by the caregiver/family member also reinforces the skill.
Physical prompts – This entails shepherding the child with the hands of the caregiver/family member on top of the child’s so that they get familiar with the motions to complete the task. This can be reinforced a couple of times till they get the hang of it.
Vocal prompts – Verbal instructions as the child goes through the motions of each task. Keep this up till the child becomes proficient in the task.
Get in touch with us today for our self-care program for autistic individuals; we are here to help develop your child’s autonomy.