As parents of children with autism and other special needs, we tend to be overwhelmed by all that we need to teach them. We worry about the daily struggles, sure, but we also want to know if we are teaching the right skills. After you introduced or worked on the skill, review it later in the format he/she learns best (Social Stories, visuals, talking about it). Here are the top 10 to put on a list and check off as they are mastered along the way:
1. Using appliances and tools - this means in all areas of the house such as the kitchen, bathroom, garage. Start out by asking your child to retrieve a tool for you while doing a simple job. Then have them participate in any way they are able.
2. Maintaining the house: replacing light bulbs, cleaning up after themselves and other chores like taking the garbage out, changing their sheets, emptying the dishwasher.
3. Pet care: What's true for typical kids is the same for kids with autism. Learning how to care for a pet goes a long way in life. They need to learn to put the needs of the pet first and respect the animal's space as well as feeding, walking, grooming and playing.
4. Fitness and Nutrition: Start a regimen of exercise. Build it into their scheduled routine and it will soon become a habit. Have them strive for 20 minutes a day of some type of exercise. It will help them to manage the frustrations they face on a daily basis as well. Nutrition - It's hard to start a new food, but even once small piece at a time is a good start.
5. Clothing - Laundry and choosing appropriate clothing for the season and situation. Many of our kids either dress for what they find comfortable or they dress for the month without taking into consideration the temperature outside or the place they are going to. Help them to lay out clothes for the situation and to check the weather. Also teach them how to do laundry. There are detergent 'pods' available that helps to reduce the struggles with measuring and pouring as well as creating visuals in the laundry room to use as a guide. It will take time, but breaking down the steps into a few simple ones and offering ample times to practice will soon lead to mastering of the skill.
6. Money management - Even starting with a simple amount of cash, such as 10.00 in an envelope and helping him to keep track of spending by writing on the outside the amounts spent for sodas, etc. and what the balance is by using a calculator. This begins with the basic concept of addition and subtraction. Even if your child is good with numbers and math, they don't always get the concept of money usage that goes along with it.
7. Personal grooming: If your teen is not showering or bathing on their own by now, you need to start, even if means just taking a wet washcloth to their faces on their own and then progressing. Eventually if you can get to the point of only providing verbal cues outside of the shower then you are on your way to independence. Laminate visuals of the size of shampoo to use, the gel, etc. in coin-sized amounts and mount it on the wall above the shower for him to see. Also do this on the mirrors in the bathroom with the steps to brush teeth, put on deodorant, etc. There is a great list maker with visuals at www.autiplan.com . There is a free trial and it has a smartphone app to use for a small amount each month. There is also a book called, "Taking Care of Myself" available on Amazon for printing out visuals.
8. Leisure skills: Very important to learn how to spend time alone in a productive way and not stimming. It's very hard to break the habit of self-stims such as talking to themselves once it starts. Be careful to not make him feel as if you are taking this chance away completely, it will lead to further frustration and anger, but to know that there is a place for that. Participate in activities with your child such as puzzles, coloring (even at a teen's age), Legos, reading a book. These are all activities that can be done at any age and should be encouraged as they also require an 'unplugged' time.
9. Sex education: Start teaching now what is appropriate with strangers, talk about relationships, talk about touch and encourage healthy self-awareness. Whether your child is verbal or not, talk to him about it anyway, because he still has the same feelings and hormones that a typical teen has. He needs to be reassured this is all okay.
10. Safety. Can't emphasize it enough. Including using a public bathroom, crossing streets, answering phones, using the internet, and being home. Go to www.autismriskmanagement.com for more information on what to look for and how to teach it.