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6 Tips to Empower Your Autistic Child by Building Independence

Intro

We all want to empower and help our different sprouts thrive and grow. Whether your child is neurotypical or neurodivergent, our goals are all the same, right? We want them to grow up healthy, happy, and well-adjusted to life.

We are supposed to love and spoil our children, but also give them the basic skills to build independence. Moms with autistic children (and moms of other neurodivergent kiddos) have different challenges when it comes to building independence.

Our sprouts’ brains are wired differently and many have some sort of delay that can make it difficult to teach them how to be independent in a way they understand and will eventually retain. Our kiddos also can have regressions in skills or, if they’re like my son, just flat out hate doing work.

So how the frig do you empower your autistic kid by building independence? Get ready for the tips I’ve gathered for you!

6 Tips to Empower Your Autistic Child to Build Independence:

Let’s talk about a few things we can do to encourage independence and help our sweet sprouts grow! I’ve got tips and ideas to help you get started <3

  1. Start with something small – have you kiddo take small steps towards independence:
    • Make sure the tasks are easy and manageable
    • This can include showing them how to:
      • strap the velcro on their shoes 
      • taking off their own jacket,
      • putting away toys
      • making a snack, etc.
    • Remember where their skills are at now so don’t start out above their skill level
    • Take it step-by-step and hand-over-hand if needed
    • Always celebrate and praise their successes and don’t make a big deal about the oopsies!
  2. Use Visual Aids – Autistic children can really respond positively to visual aids because they can see what is expected of them. Think about what sort of visual aid your child will respond to, but here are some ideas:
  3. Focus on their Strengths – What is your child good at? What are they interested in? Incorporate these into their daily routine to help build confidence and motivate them. This may even help them develop new skills and interests. A few examples:
    • My son loves lights and would make me turn them on for him all through the house…
    • Instead, I taught him how to use the light switches, which then turned into learning how to use the pull strings for the lights and fans too!
    • Does your child like playing with play dough? That helps their fine motor skills, dexterity, and hand-eye coordination that can eventually help them learn to cooking skills down the road (for example).
  4. Encourage problem-solving – let your child come up with solutions to everyday problems; wait to see if they can figure it out before you step in to help. They can’t lean on us for every little thing! Give them that confidence boost when they do it for themselves!
    • Set up obstacle courses for them to navigate! They are problem-solving when they’re figuring out how to get through the course while working on gross motor skills.
    • Do puzzles, a Rubick’s cube, or tangrams together 
    • Scavenger hunts where they have to think and solve the clues
    • If your child’s skill levels allow, you can role-play, brainstorm, or model problem-solving strategies
    • I even let my son struggle a little if he can’t get his shirt off! Let him think it through and try different moves and he gets it.
  5. Give them opportunities to socialize – we already know socializing is good for our kiddos’ social skills even if they’re not into playing with their peers. These kinds of settings also build independence by giving your sprout confidence and learning self-reliance.
    • Look for sensory friendly events around you! This is a great way to connect your kids with similar sprouts while being in a less stressful environment
    • The local playground can be a good place if you think it won’t overwhelm your kiddo
    • Sports are beneficial as well, but only if they’re interested in it and capable; I know my son wouldn’t understand how to play at this stage, but your kiddo might!
    • What about a club related to their interests?
  6. Use positive reinforcement – I love telling my son that I’m proud of him, or amazing try, or he did awesome when he’s trying something for himself. We want to build that motivation and confidence while encouraging them to try new things.

Just remember to be patient, understanding, and prepare for lots of repetition. I know it can take my little guy a hundred times to do something before he’ll start doing it on his own. 

Light switches he picked up on immediately, but picking up after himself when he dropped food took soooo much repetition (and he still tries to get out of it). 

Conclusion

It’s easy to forget that our little sprouts have to grow and have some sort of independence one day. Even if leaving the nest may not be in their future, we still know we can’t give them baths and tie their shoes when they’re adults (if they’re physically and mentally able to, of course!). 

We have to empower our kiddos with the skills and know-how to build up their independence and be able to care for themselves as much as they can when we’re gone. 

So, invest the time and patience now to give them a better and more empowered life.

I’m curious!

What was something that seemed like it would take a million times before your kiddo finally did it on their own? What are you working on now? I’d love for you to comment and tell me everything!

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