A person with autism who needs significant support with personal care and daily living can become totally dependent on others. Our friends who rely totally on others run the risk of becoming helpless and incapable of taking care of any aspect of their personal needs.
Decreasing total dependence on others is a challenge, especially for individuals who are oblivious to the need for learning to help themselves or for individuals who lack motivation, understanding, or ability to complete daily living tasks.
One strategy that works is the “52 Step Approach.” The basic concept of this creative approach is to purposefully teach one small self-help task each week. If your friend with autism learns just one new self-help skill each week, he will be 52 times more independent by the end of just one year. Yipee!
The key to success is to break daily living skills into steps and to patiently teach just one step at a time. So, for example, one of my friends with autism learned to gather up his dirty clothes into a basket one week, to put his clothes in the washer with little assistance the following week, and to transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer the following week. Granted, this youngster still needed help with turning on the washer and dryer and with putting his clothes away, but he made great strides in just three weeks. This young teen also seemed to gain a sense of personal pride and seemed to portray some self-satisfaction from his work.
One word of caution: we tend to wait until our friends with autism are teens or young adults before we start teaching self-sufficiency. My experience over the past 35 years tells me that 2 years old is not too young to begin.
TIP FOR THE DAY: Don’t hesitate. Don’t wait until a perfect plan is in place. Start today. Just pick one small task, teach it to your friend with autism, then help them learn to complete that task with as little assistance and nagging as possible. Keep track of the tasks, then have a celebration in 52 short weeks.
NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at talk@FAQautism.com with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com