Increase Independence

At the Autism Conference I attended in Portland in January 2013 I was able to hear a few of my favorite speakers. One of which was Bridget Taylor from Alpine Learning Group in New Jersey. Her topic was about teaching independence. The take home message was simple : “Stop doing everything for your child!”

Her strategy was an easy one which I immediately went home and practiced on my own children. Write down everything you do for your child for 24 hours. Easy, right? “It can’t be that much?” I thought. Hahahaha! Yeah right! It was a TON!

So, I of course, made a plan to decrease that list for each of my kids. My first thing was to bring to my children’s attention that I was going to stop doing so many things for them.

I gave them 3 things we were going to implement that first day.
1) Knives would be placed at the table when eating and they will be expected to cut their own food.
2) No more wiping bottoms!
3) Clear the table when you are finished eating.

My 4 year old son responds to that with “No way! I want you to wipe my bum!” I turned to him and said quite frankly “Do you want me to be wiping your bum when you’re 30 years old? In fact, at that age you’ll likely be married. Do you want your wife to be wiping your bum?” And, he says “Yep! My wife will have to wipe my bum too!” Ugh! Well, talking it out and setting up rules didn’t work for that one. Now, I have to use my behavioral “bag of tricks” to decrease that behavior!

The other 2 behaviors were easier to increase independence.

I helped my 4 year old son by placing my hands over his. Gradually I faded my hands and he is cutting soft foods by himself now! Yay! My 6 year old daughter just needed to be shown (she’s a visual learner) and I of course love to talk so I added verbal directions but that was really unnecessary.

As for the clearing the table…easy peasy! I just told them what they needed to do and they did it. They require at maximum a verbal reminder or gesture but they are independently clearing the dishes and most of the time they are clearing them without me even asking!

I think this can be an easy one for you all to implement at home. Give it a try and let me know how it’s going!