Teaching skills at home to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) provides a range of benefits that continue well into adulthood. Learning these skills at a young age can also increase their ability to be more successful as adults. Though it may seem more important to focus on teaching behavioral and academic skills, researchers note it is crucial to teach self-help skills to children with autism for them to increase their independent skills now and later on in life. Skills like brushing teeth, using the toilet, eating, participating in chores, and learning to communicate for themselves all increase self-esteem and independence.
Overcoming a difficulty to communicate can be a hurdle. Since many children with autism could have trouble with speech, teaching augmentative communication can give them an effective way to communicate their needs and advocate for themselves. Visual aids like pictures are especially useful since people with ASD are often visual learners.
Another area of self-help that can be challenging is feeding. Families who have an autistic child know the difficulty that mealtimes can bring. Sensory processing is difficult for some children with autism so it is no surprise that eating could be a point of anxiety sometimes. Having a feeding schedule, involving the child in the meal preparation process, and modeling healthy eating behavior are all excellent ways to try to alleviate the stress around food and help children form a healthier relationship with eating.
Learning to accomplish chores is another excellent way to boost independence. If a task is too difficult for a child to comprehend, it can be broken up into smaller tasks. Using visual aids and plenty of hands-on instruction can be especially helpful for learning new chores. Doing small parts of a chore may not seem like much at first, but as they master each step, they will be able to expand on that skill over time. This incremental learning provides the building blocks of a more independent adulthood.
When teaching self-help skills to an autistic child, it is important to pay attention to the environment in which the learning is taking place. They might benefit from learning a skill in the environment it will be applied in real life. For example, learning to brush their teeth in the bathroom.
Daily living skills are complex and not touched on in the classroom nearly as often as academic skills. That’s why it is imperative to teach self-help skills to children and give them plenty of opportunities to practice them. Acquiring these skills will not only increase self-esteem and their sense of responsibility, but could also give better outcomes later in life as they enter adulthood.
The Personal Skills Printables from Autism Classroom is a printable resource with some daily living skills worksheets that could serve as a guide for teaching a few skills. This has now also been turned into a workbook called the Personal Skills Workbook.