How to Help Your Autistic Child Gain Independence this Summer
Risk development is important to any child, regardless of the other challenges that they may struggle with. Of course, for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it can be a little harder to take that necessary step back. Worrying is normal, but children with autism crave the satisfaction of independence just like any other child. With small steps, a child with autism can achieve so much, and summer is the perfect time to offer your support. They are home from school and ready for a new adventure with you!
Start at home.
Beginning independent starts with identifying what your child is interested in, as well as what they feel safe and comfortable doing. Make sure your child is developmentally ready for a new task and start at home in a familiar setting to ease anxieties. Then, talk to your child. Would they like to help make their own lunch? If water is soothing, maybe your child would be interested in learning to wash dishes or perhaps bathe themselves. These are all skills that can be built upon as they get older and reach for even more independence.
Determine what skills will be taught.
With any new task, it is so important to start small. Discuss what skills will be taught and where you will lend a helping hand. In making a lunch, your child could learn about pantry items and where they are stored. It could be as simple as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or as advanced as heating canned soup on the stove. You will need to determine what your special needs child is comfortable with and ready for. Once you have identified the skill, such as making a sandwich, break down the steps with visuals that will enable your child to complete the task on their own.
Establish long-term goals.
Consider a reasonable goal that will challenge your child, but still be attainable. By the end of summer, should your child be preparing their entire lunch with a sandwich, fruit, and drink, or should you start with making just the sandwich independently? Maybe your child’s accomplishment will be as simple as knowing where to find the bread or being able to understand the steps of making a sandwich in story form. Think ahead about what you want your child to gain without too much stress. Remember, goals can be adjusted if the challenge seems too overwhelming. The goal is to promote individual success, not fear of failure.
Although this is an exercise in learning independence, a child on the autism spectrum will need you by their side for reassurance. Be positive always and remember, with any child, mistakes are going to be made. Even if the success is as small as finding the bread independently, celebrate this achievement! Last week your child may have had no knowledge of the pantry, and now they are pointing to the cupboard with the plates. Every time you reinforce a step in the right direction, your child will be eager to learn even more.
Summer is the perfect opportunity to build independent life skills with your child. Just remember that changing the context could also mean changing the task, so even if you have taught your child to independently check out a book at one library, using a different library could pull you back to step one. That is completely ok! It is a learning process and an opportunity to expand your child’s ability to manage unexpected challenges.
Regardless of diagnosis, your child can be the person they want to be and achieve their goals. For parents who are testing the waters with letting their child play independently outside or walk to a nearby park, AngelSense is an expert in ensuring the safety of children with autism. AngelSense products offer peace of mind to parents who are struggling with balancing their child’s safety and their child’s desire to do things on their own. You aren’t alone in this challenge of helping your child be independent, and AngelSense can help.