Blog #250~DS-ASD: Teaching Independent Living Skills
The ultimate goal for parents, teachers and caregivers is to help the child reach their full potential and become as independent as possible. I am a parent to a soon to be 29 year old son who has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). I strive and struggle daily to help my son Nick, but also coach and encourage and other families by offering strategies to assist their children. Independent living skills teach kids how to be responsible and give a sense of accomplishment. How do you start teaching these skills? That’s what I want to focus on for this week’s blog and it’s also a goal that I set for myself and Nick this year.
5 Tips for teaching independent living skills:
*Meet the child where they are at and build activities around their strengths
*Use visual schedules, task strips, token boards, modeling/video modeling, point prompts and hand over hand techniques
*Start with a preferred activity and include fun tasks
*Focus on one area or task at a time and build from there
*Use a highly preferred reinforcer that is motivating to your child
The first thing to do when starting to teach a skill is to identify an activity or task. Then, you want to meet the child where they are at according to their skill level. It’s helpful to pick something that you can build around the child’s strengths. My son Nick is very good at matching and knowing where things belong. He’s always had a keen eye and we play upon this strength. It helps to focus on one area of the house at a time. Let’s start with the kitchen, what tasks could your child do?
Kitchen Task Ideas:
*Help load or unload the dishwasher/ wash and dry dishes
*Wipe down countertops and windows
*Sweep and mop floor
*Help with garbage and recycling/ can crushing
*Set the table
*Assist in meal preparation and making choices of food and snacks
*Sweep and mop floor
*Put away groceries
Using visuals can help the child make choices and understand the steps involved by breaking down the task. Schedules and token boards give the child a clear beginning and end to what is expected and provide predictability. Task strips like the one below help to break down the activity into smaller steps:
Nick’s kitchen tasks includes unloading groceries and the dishwasher and emptying the recycling container to the outdoor bin. When the weather permits, he helps push the garbage and recycling bins to the curb. This is followed by a highly preferred reward= Sprite. Nick also helps with meal prep and wiping the countertops down. He takes great pride in his jobs and this gives him a sense of accomplishment.
These jobs didn’t happen overnight. Over the years we’ve used visuals to teach tasks but also modeling/ video models, using the hand over hand technique and fading back to point prompts. It can be a a lot of frontloaded work getting started and teaching your child. Working with a BCBA behaviorist can be very beneficial in identifying target behaviors and building the skill set to complete living skills independently.
This blog will be the first of many to focus on teaching independent living skills around the house. Nick and I will take you through one room at a time. Our goal and passion is to make this road of a dual diagnosis easier for other families. We also want to inspire you as a parent, teacher or caregiver to help your child reach their full potential.
That’s what is in my noggin this week.
For more information on navigating co-occurring DS-ASD in my book. Click here to order: https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X
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