Less Dependent, Part 2

Decreasing dependence on others is a challenge, especially when our friends with autism are unwilling to become more self-reliant, or if they have difficulty learning new skills or new routines. Under these circumstances, how can we encourage and teach a person to be less dependent?

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Decreasing dependence means different things for different people, but, in general terms, we are talking about teaching a person to complete daily living skills with less assistance, and shaping new routines necessary for self-reliance. To avoid being overwhelmed when approaching a gigantic, life-changing goal like this, break it down and patiently teach just one step at a time.

One strategy that works is the “52 Step Approach.” The basic concept of this creative approach is to purposefully teach one small task and to raise expectations for self-reliance just a notch each week. If your friend with autism takes just a tiny step forward each week, he will have taken 52 steps toward a higher level of independence by the end of just one year. Yipee!

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 40 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.

Don’t hesitate click on the Toolkit tab on our website to learn more about practical, to-the-point, helpful Toolkits for family members, teachers, therapists, and others interested in the well-being of individuals with autism of all ages and levels of ability. http://FAQautism.com

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

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