1. Work on Vocational Skills
In your child’s IEP, starting at or around age 14(age 16 in some states) your child should have vocational skills included on his or her IEP or Individual Education Plan. Make a list of his or her strengths, skills and interests and use them to guide the type of vocational activities that are included as objectives. All the things that you as an autism/special needs parent has been leading up to this time: goals for the future, interests, self-care and activities.Baketivity
2. Build Leisure Skills
Being able to participate in independent or group activities will serve your child well throughout his/her life. Many people with autism/special needs have various special interests in one or two subjects. For instance, our autistic son plays in Top Soccer sports, plays the piano by ear & is now learning how to read music notes. He also has an interest in drawing, computer games, and Flip Books. Although he is unable to participate in extracurricular activities in a group setting because of COVID-19 and social distancing, we still try to find ways that he is able to move his body. Thank God for stairs in our home and YouTube PE videos! The Autism Speaks Resource Guide contains activities that your child can get involved with your community; including team sports, swim lessons, martial arts, music groups, and more.
3. Teaching Community Safety Skills
Safety is an monumental concern for many families, especially as children become more mature and independent. Teach and practice travel safety, including crossing the street, identifying traffic signs, and other safety markers. Becoming familiar with public transportation is paramount and sadly, if your child is a person of color the added safety risk is being harmed or killed by police officers mistakenly or in some cases targeted because of vulnerability. Consider having your child carry an ID card which can be very helpful to provide his or her name, a brief explanation of his or her diagnosis, and a contact person. You can find examples of ID cards and other great safety materials in the Get Going Pocket Guide. and on their website.
4. Work on Self-Care Skills
Introduce self-care activities into your child’s routine. Brushing teeth, combing hair and other activities of daily living (ADLs) are important life skills, and introducing them as early as possible helps to master these skills down the line. Include these things on your child’s daily or weekly schedule so he or she gets used to having them as part of the daily routine.
5. Introduce a Daily Visual Schedule
Using a visual schedule with your child helps with transitions and there are far less prompts from activity to activity. Review each item with your child and gently remind him or her to check the schedule before every transition. Over time, he or she will be able to complete this task, practice decision making and pursue the activities that interest him or her; therefore gaining more independence.
6. Teach Your Child to Ask for a Break
Make sure your child has a way to request a break – add a “Break” button on his or her communication device, a picture in his or her PECS book, etc. Identify an area that is quiet where your child can go when feeling overwhelmed. Alternatively, consider offering headphones or other tools to help regulate sensory input. Although it may seem like a simple thing, knowing how to ask for a break can allow your child to regain control over him or herself and his or her environment.
7. Practice Money Skills
Learning how to use money is such an important skill and can help your child become independent when out and about in their community. No matter where your child is in their money skills, there are ways that he or she can begin to learn. At school, consider adding money skills to your child’s IEP and when you are at the grocery store, allow him/her to hand money to the cashier. Using these skills in different locations in the community can all become part of that learning process and gaining independence.
8. Work on Household Chores
Having children complete household chores teaches them responsibility and gets them involved in family routines and useful skills to take with them as they get older. Be sure to model the steps yourself or provide prompts if your child has trouble at first!
9. Teach Self-Care During AdolescenceAnxiety Management
Entering adolescence and beginning puberty can bring many changes for a teen with autism, so this is an important time to introduce many hygiene and self-care skills. Getting your teens into the habit of self-care will set them up for success and allow them to become much more independent as they approach adulthood. Visual aids can be useful to help your teen complete his or her personal hygiene routine each day. Consider making a checklist of activities to help your child keep track of what to do and post it in the bathroom. This can include items such as showering, washing face, putting on deodorant and brushing hair. To stay organized, you can put together a hygiene “kit” to keep everything your teen needs in one place.
10. Strengthen Communication
If your child struggles with spoken language, a critical step for increasing independence is strengthening his or her ability to communicate by building skills and providing tools to help express preferences, desires and feelings. Some types of alternative types of communication involve visual supports, assistive technology, picture exchange communication systems(PECS), Speech output devices, etc.
No matter where you are in your journey with your child/teen with autism they are always learning. Keep an open mind and always allow them that time to learn to pick up skills at their own pace, not at a pace that is ‘expected’ of them at their age. The world is a classroom:-)
By Mom Advocate