10 ways to help autistic kids be independent. Kid brushing hsi teeth and another choosing between ice cream and broccoli.
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10 Ways to Teach an Autistic Child to be Independent

We all have this on our minds because adulthood looms closer and closer for our kiddos. We often want to help our autistic child to be independent but aren’t sure of the ways to go about it.

I’m going to go over 10 ways to teach an autistic child to be independent that are easily implemented into your everyday life.

1. Establish Clear Routines

Creating consistent daily routines and schedules provides predictability for our autistic children. This means they feel secure and know what to expect for the day. This also provides a sense of structure that will make it easier for them to navigate daily tasks independently.

Are you lost on the “how” part of establishing clear routines? The Marcus Autism Center makes it easy in Establishing Routines at Home! This helpful article helps you break down the steps and create a schedule for your autistic kiddo.

2. Visual Supports and Timers

Using visual supports like visual schedules or even visual chore charts along with timers helps your child understand the sequence of events for the day. It also helps them with time management. Using visual cues can truly help their ability to transition between tasks independently.

The Indiana Resource Center for Autism has FREE visual supports you can go through and download what you need for you child in Visual Supports for School, Home, and Community.

3. Promote Self-Care Skills

You should not only encourage basic self-care skills, but also teach them how to do the basics on their own. This means breaking the tasks down into manageable steps, using visual guides, and staying patient with your little one. Remember to give positive reinforcement to foster confidence in performing these tasks on their own. Also, practice, practice, practice!

4. Teach Problem Solving Skills

This can be taught in the form of games or presenting real-life situations to your child. Either way, you’ll be guiding them through the process of finding solutions. Give them time and encouragement to think critically, make choices, and learn from the experience.

Need some ideas? Try my blog post 9 Activities to Encourage Problem-Solving in Autistic Kids!

5. Encourage Communication

Communication skills are important to develop and support in our little ones, especially autistic children. It doesn’t matter if it’s verbal communication, sign language, communication cards, or communication apps, it’s vital to have ways for your child to express their needs and preferences. This in turn enhances their ability to advocate for themselves.

Here’s a helpful guide about Communication: Autistic Children (from 0-8 years old).

6. Provide Choices

Offering choices will empower your child and promotes decision-making. You can offer choices in everyday activities. Be sure to offer controlled choices that won’t overwhelm, but still gives your child a sense of independence. With our son we try to stick to two options.

7. Create a Visual Schedule for Tasks

Think of this as a visual roadmap that will make it easier for your child to understand what’s expected of them. Take the larger tasks and break them down into smaller, more manageable steps to create the visual schedule. This will help your child complete multi-step activities independently.

8. Encourage Hobbies and Special Interests

If your child has any hobbies or special interests, support the heck out of it. Be sure to nurture whatever it is no matter how much they might drive you crazy with it :). When they engage in activities they are passionate about, it promotes a sense of purpose and autonomy. In this way it will be a foundation for developing skills and independence.

9. Practice Social Skills

Social skills can be worked on through interactions with peers, siblings, or family members. But there are also fun games that can help some with social skills. When autistic kids engage in social activities, it allows them to practice communication, cooperation, and relationship-building. This all contributes to increased independence in social settings.

I mentioned there are games you can play with your child to enhance social skills. You have to read Games for Kids with Autism to Enhance Social Interaction to get some ideas.

10. Gradual Exposure to New Experiences

We all know new experiences don’t always go over so well with our kiddos. It can be scary and change is rarely welcome in our world. But it’s important to introduce new experiences gradually. Make sure to allow your child to become familiar with different environments and activities. The slow exposure helps build their confidence and independence over time.

Need a little more guidance on changing routines to explore new experiences? Try Changing Routines: Autistic Children and Teenagers.

Conclusion

We all know how important it is to teach our autistic children to be independent. Whether they’ll go on to be on their own or with us for life, they still need to be independent. It’s scary to think about, but we won’t be here forever.

So we need to empower our kids today to be independent in the future. Remember progress varies for each child, so celebrate the small victories along the way. Mold your approach to your child’s strengths and challenges. Don’t be afraid to reach out and get help from professionals like their teacher, therapists they work with, or outside help from behavior specialists.

I hope this helped give you some ideas on how to get started on your child’s independence journey. What methods will you try first? You’ll have to let me know in comments and keep me updated on your kiddos progress :).

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