Teach Independence

Nadia Shanab | autism, general advice, parenting
4 Aug 2010

The ultimate goal, both, parents and educators are working for, is to render children with autism as independent as possible. We look far ahead, and picture them as adults, living independently, without the need of having us around. The best thing to do is to start the process as early as possible. Early intervention assures us of better results.

Parents, if you are in doubt that your child might be on the autism spectrum, please don’t hesitate. Go check with professionals the soonest possible. Start with your physician, and you’ll be guided to proceed in the right direction. The diagnosis is now possible at a very young age. At eighteen months already, you can find out about the truth. So, don’t wait.

We, adults, at home and at school should work on teaching living skills, or what I prefer to call survival skills.

Here are some examples.

Teach money, weight and capacity the earliest possible. At school we start teaching these subjects in third grade only. Parents shouldn’t wait. Make it fun, make it a game. Use manipulative and tangible objects and toys. Take your child with you to the grocery store, and have her/him help you choose the meals and ingredients. It is a good opportunity to apply what you taught her/him about money, weight, capacity, and all kinds of foods. You’ll probably help your child discover other foods she/he never wanted to try. Exposure is important. It broadens the mind and opens doors to new learning opportunities.

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How to do it?

At home: make the house physically easy for your child to get organized.

Set up a rule for everything. Show the rules with pictures and written words.

Shoes, clothes, personal belongings (backpack, lunchbox, books, sports gear) and toys should have very specified places to be kept at/in.

The child should be trained to clean up after playing, eating.

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  • Take your lunchbox out and put it on the counter in the kitchen
  • Take your homework out and put it on your desk (or kitchen table, or wherever you want)
  • Put your backpack away
  • Take your shoes off and put them on the shoes rack
  • Take your jacket off and hang it up
  • Wash your hands and get changed

And so on, try to systematize everything. It seems very tiring and complicated, but in the long run your efforts will pay off. Your child will become independent and confident.

At school: apply the same rule. Make directions easy to understand using posters, pictures or even objects.

Keep the lists of directions in visible places, on the door, by the sink, on the board.

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