Blog #170~Teaching Independent Living Skills
Brushing your teeth, bathing, dressing, and doing household chores, are all a part of what a parent teaches their child. But what if you are a parent of a child with special needs? How do you teach these independent living skills?
My son Nick is 23 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism. He has learned many self-help skills, and assists around the house with several chores. These independent living skills give him a sense of accomplishment and pride. It also takes the burden off me as his mom.
So how do you get started? First, identify areas that you want to work on with your child. Pick just one skill, that your child can do with assistance. This skill should have value and interest to them. Take for instance the task of washing your hands. This was something my son liked to do because he enjoys running the faucets. 😉 The next step is to break down the task into simple steps. Take these simple steps and determine what supports are needed to teach this skill. For a child that has autism, it helps greatly to provide visual supports. This can be written instructions, using picture sequences, or video modeling.
Picture sequence for washing hands….
When using picture sequences, determine with your child’s teacher, if it’s more effective to use the style above, or actual photographs of the sequence. Each child is different in how they can understand pictures. You can find many picture sequences on Google Images, or ask your child’s support teacher to make you some. Another option is to use an iPad, and download apps that show these sequences. There are tons apps available, here is just one of many:
iPad App called iDo Hygiene (free app)….
Once the visual supports are in place, you can guide your child step by step, using “hand over hand technique” to teach the motor skills. As your child develops these skills, begin to fade back, by point prompting to each picture. Be sure to use lots of praise and cheer them on their successes.
Here are a few examples of other self-help skills that you can work on with your child around the house:
*Hygiene skills like brushing teeth, showering, washing face and hands, brushing hair, toileting, shaving.
*Recycling and can crushing
*Help with laundry
*Unload the dishwasher
*Set the table
*Make the bed
*Fold and put away laundry
*Cleaning windows and countertops
*Unload groceries and put them away
Many of these household chores provide great sensory input. Push and pull activities like carrying laundry baskets and vacuuming, are excellent examples. Heavy work provides proprioceptive input to the muscles & joints. This can be very calming, organizing, and regulating, decreasing stress and anxiety.
Not all of the skills above are Nick’s favorites to do. As a parent, you can determine which activities are more motivating for your child. Focus on those first. Nick really enjoys vacuuming. Another strength Nick has is matching, and remembering where things go. So for him, unloading the dishwasher and putting groceries away were both easier and motivating for him to do.
Teaching your child independent living skills, will strengthen their abilities to hold a job in the future.
Nick doing volunteer work at GiGi’s Playhouse…
It also fosters a sense of fulfillment and gratification for them, as well. So, pick one task, roll up your sleeves and get to work. That’s what is in my noggin this week!
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