‘If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism’- Quote by Stephen Shore, the American photographer.
If you are a parent or a relative or caregiver of a person with autism, you already have a lot on your plate. Your life revolves around them and their needs. The smallest tasks seem like challenges and everything has to be micromanaged. With time as you age, fears and insecurities over what will happen to your child after you are no more start gnawing your mind and soul. Who will take care of them, how they will manage and who will support them are thoughts that bother all parents and guardians
The answer to these pressing thoughts is to develop the life skills of these children at an early age over time. These self-help skills for autistic children include personal hygiene issues, cleaning, handling money and dealing with the outside world. Just as the range of abilities of those living with some form of Autism Symptom disorder (ASD) is wide, the levels of self-helps skills inculcated also vary from person to person. These skills have to be modified on case to case basis for each child.
Lets discuss some ways to help these children develop self-help skill over time which will help them to be independent:
Check Lists – Children with some form of ASD follow a routine and do not like deviations. Therefore it’s best that each family creates a daily checklist of the routine to be followed and give it to the child. These simplified checklists enable the child to understand the routine they must follow and acts as a visual reminder. These checklists should be printed using large size fonts and should have minimal words
Simplify tasks – Dumb everything down for the child. Break up a task into a series of mini-tasks leading to the main task being completed. For example, making a sandwich seems like a very simple thing to do for most people. 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."
Introduce self-help skills into a daily routine – Introduce slowly self-help activities into the lives of children at the earliest. This will enable them to hone these skills over time. Brushing teeth, combing hair and other activities of daily living must become part of their daily schedule.
Community engagement - Take the children with you when going to a mall or a store or a park. Let them order from the restaurant menu, engage with the cashier in the store, interact with other children, place orders, etc. Slow and steady build their repertoire and their confidence.
Improve communication skills – You can strengthen their communication by helping them build skills and provide tools to express feelings and desires. These tools include Alternative/Augmentative Communication (AAC) and visual supports.