Ohio State Wexner Medical Center:
Ohio State Wexner Medical Center spends $11.5 Billion on children with autism, covering everything from education to medicine.
But as these children become young adults, they struggle in their everyday life. To provide support for these adults with autism, Dr. Christopher Hanks of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has helped to open one of the few clinics in the USA to support adults with autism. Through his programs for autistic adults, Dr. Hanks ensures that the adult child receives the treatment just like the normal patients.
In addition, as adults with autism face challenges with communication, the staff members of these services communicate with the patients online.
Teaching Life Skills At Home
You can try several strategies to teach life skills at home by following a general three-step approach:
Life Skills Training: Autism & Independent Living Skills
During the last 20 years, a variety of terms have been coined to describe those life skills that allow individuals to self-care and function independently in society. Amongst these terms, you will find independent living skills, daily living skills, functional curriculum, functional skills, life skills and survival skills.
Although they may not describe the exact same set of skills, they all describe sets of skills that empower us to become independent adults successfully functioning in our communities.
Kids learn many of those skills through observation and imitation. But the reality for children with disabilities may be different.
Life skills training is vital for them. Skills that most kids learn through observation may need to be specifically trained in kids with disabilities.
- Life Skills: Activities of daily living definition
- Why are ADLs so important
- Life Skills Training, Autism and/or Learning Disabilities-Importance of life skills training for kids with disabilities-Factors that may be affecting the acquisition of independent living skills
- How can I teach my kid with autism and/or a learning disability independent living skills?-Chaining Methods
- Independent Living Skills Checklist
Also Check: What Does An Autistic Shutdown Feel Like
The Complexity Of Functional Skills
Dr. Peter Gerhardt, a behavior expert, helps students with autism learn daily living skills, sometimes called “functional skills.” Functional skills have taken on a negative connotation, he said during a recent online presentation. When you talk to parents about teaching functional skills, they may view it as “giving up on a kid.”
However, those skills can be more complex than inferential calculus, Dr. Gerhardt said. For example, learning how to cross a busy New York City street safely is a complex task involving visual memory, decision-making, and motor skills, he said. It’s also a skill that allows someone to get to work so he can use his academic skills.
Parents can help by giving children simple chores to do beginning at a young age, said Ernst O. VanBergeijk, Ph.D., M.S.W., associate dean and executive director of the Vocational Independence Program at New York Institute of Technology. For example, a small child can learn to put dirty clothes in a hamper. As he gets older, he can learn to separate light and dark clothes into two piles. Later still, he can put those clothes in the washer, and eventually he will set the washer controls himself to do the laundry, he said.
How To Teach Life Skills
Every person with autism is different, so the life skills that will be taught, and the pace that they are taught, will vary from person to person. For example, one young adult with autism may ultimately be able to live on his or her own with very little, if any, outside support, while another may require supports and services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Starting to develop life skills to the best of a child’s ability at a young age will make a difference as they get older.
There are endless life skills to learn which will be taught and practiced at home, school, and in the community. Most people with autism benefit from clear, hands-on instruction in life skills that will help them to increase independence.
Life Skills classes or independent living programs are common ways to learn these skills and are usually led by a teacher or therapist. Life skills training should occur in natural environments where the skills being taught relate directly to the type of environment the person is going to live and use them. This means learning cooking skills in a kitchen, or learning laundry skills in a laundromat.
Read Also: Are Autistic People Aware Of Their Autism
Shakespeare And Showering: Skills For High School
What we find is that with more nuanced and sophisticated skills, students have to be taught very explicitly and sequentially how to perform the skill.
Tom Hays Ph.D., educational director of a private high school, said parents are surprised when he says that adaptive skills are more important than some basic high school information, such as Shakespeare or the Krebs Cycle. Dr. Hays works at Franklin Academy, a day and boarding school for students with autism spectrum disorder and nonverbal learning disability school in East Haddam, Conn. Franklin includes instruction in adaptive and social skills, along with the typical college preparatory courses.
“We teach the skills you have to have to get along with others, take care of yourself, and self-advocacy,” Dr. Hays said. Instruction may range from daily living skills, such as personal hygiene, to more complex dating and relationship skills, he said.
“I have kids with a 145 IQ who walk into my classroom, and they stink,” he said. They may think taking a shower means standing under a stream of water for a few seconds and nothing more, he said. Fortunately, Franklin has a curriculum that teaches how they should bathe by breaking it down into concrete steps, such as how to use soap and how long to stand under the water.
Social Skills Coaching: 2 Best Activities
Eye contact is considered one of the most important aspects of communication.
It is estimated that adults make eye contact 30â60% of the time in general conversation, increasing to 60â70% of the time when trying to form a more intimate relationship .
Giving people who are struggling socially the tools to make more eye contact is usually the first step in social skills training exercises.
The Strategies for Maintaining Eye Contact worksheet provides some practical strategies and tips to practice making eye contact.
Sometimes, people who struggle with making eye contact overcompensate, leading to social blunders while simply trying to increase their ability to socialize effectively. This handy worksheet on Doâs and Donâts When Making Eye Contact breaks down exactly what is acceptable when making eye contact and what behaviors should be avoided.
Read Also: How To Teach Empathy To Autistic Child
What Are The Positive Aspects Of Resilience
Resilience helps an autistic person:
- make their way through lifes milestones in a positive way
- build self-confidence and self-esteem
- succeed in challenges and also accept and learn from mistakes and failures
- understand the need for practice to develop a new skill
- set the stage for a more independent adulthood
- understand social-emotional boundaries and limits and work within those
- foster a sense of place in the world and a feeling of belonging
- build the confidence to take on new challenges
- transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood
How To Care For Myself
These would be personal care skills such as daily hygiene, dressing, nutrition, exercise, or coping with stress. Can they complete the basic everyday life skills to be able to care for themselves independently?
Check out our ebook Everyday Life Skills Personal Hygiene Skills for the Bathroom to help you teach your teen personal hygiene skills. Break down the steps to complete each skill to help your teen. Create checklists, visual sequencing cards, or use verbal directions until your teen can find strategies that help them learn the skill. How to Teach Teenagers with Autism Personal Hygiene Self-Care Tasks.
Does your child or teen struggle with personal hygiene skills due to sensory challenges? Check out our free Personal Hygiene Sensory Strategies Toolkit for help!
Check out these resources for personal care skills:
Read Also: How To Assess Autism In Adults
An Experience Similar To College For Adults With Autism
Employment training and personal enrichment courses were provided by Marbridge since its founding in 1953. However, in 2001 a more structured training program was developed that integrated education, socialization, recreation, independent living skills, and employment instruction. This training program now serves more than 160 residents in The Ranch and The Village communities. For adults with autism who are graduating from high school, Marbridge can provide a college-like experience.
Organized into semesters, the training schedule is based on each residents goals. Generally, job skills training places within the top five goals identified in all IPPs. Job skills training is offered only to residents who list employment as a goal they want to achieve.
Our job skills training is not a job coaching program, and the feedback weve received from residents and families is that is differs from what they encountered in high school or other care communities, where a job coach accompanies the individual and stands by them all day. Our program trains residents to be independent employees. At Marbridge, we believe people with autism can become self-determining adults, capable of competingand winningin the competitive workplace. Time and again, like Jason has shown, they prove us right.
What Should Parents Take From This
We parents just want our kids to be happy and self-sufficient someday, so what are we supposed to take from this depressing research?
Actually, the studies I linked sound depressing, but there is a lot of good news in there.
Here are the big take-aways from studies of autistic people in adulthood:
Your Child Is Delayed Not Arrested
You dont have to spend an arm and a leg on therapy to get your child caught up to their peers. Longitudinal studies suggest that your kid will meet that milestone just at their own pace.
Autistic kids grow and develop and change with time, just like any other kid.
Sure, you can pay to hurry it along, but thats going to be for your benefit, not your kids.
The Best Skill You Can Teach Is Self-Advocacy
The same study that I quoted above noted that one of the biggest obstacles to education and employment in adulthood was accessibility.
A combination of social difficulties and sensory sensitivities made negotiating educational, vocational, and community settings difficult. Many described feeling overwhelmed and unable to think clearly around other people, and some felt they had been victimized by classmates or co-workers. Some had found a situation that minimized these challenges e.g. studying online or a job that was semi-solitary.
But studies show quite the opposite its the ones who learn how to work around their difficulties, not plow through them, who are more likely to succeed.
Dont Expect Them To Fail
Recommended Reading: What Do Autistic People Look Like
Final Thoughts Ona Guide To Life Skills Education For Adults With Intellectual Disabilities
Providing life skills education for adults with intellectual disabilities requires someone dedicated to offering the best possible chance for growth and success.
To make a positive impact, the person must:
- Be willing to grind away at a skill even when they have already been working on it for a long time.
- Use best practices when it comes to educating the individual and working towards goals.
- Identify areas of learning that will provide the biggest benefits to the individuals life.
- Hold themselves to the highest standard because they know how important modeling behavior is.
- Be confident that what they are doing is making life more attainable and less intimidating for an adult with an intellectual disability.
Life skills education for adults with intellectual disabilities continues to improve and hopefully will continue to receive more support from lawmakers and service providers.
Individuals with intellectual disabilities do not disappear when public education services expire, and it should be a priority to make sure all of these individuals have the best possible chance at success in their adult lives.
He is passionate about providing engaging and educational recreational options for adults and young adults with intellectual disabilities. He also provides autism awareness and inclusion training to businesses and organizations in different communities. You can contact him at and on social media @HendrixLearning.
- This author does not have any more posts.
Questions To Ask Your Clients
Prior to starting social skills training or activities, the therapist and client should narrow down which areas need help. A therapist can do this by asking the client a series of questions, including:
- Where do you think you are struggling?
- Are there any social situations that make you feel anxious, upset, or nervous?
- Do you avoid any specific social situations or actions?
- Have you ever had anyone comment on your social behavior? What have they said?
- What do you think will help you improve the skills you are struggling with?
Clients can also ask themselves some questions to determine if the social skills therapy process is right for them.
These questions can include:
- What aspects of my life am I struggling with?
- Are there specific social situations or skills that I struggle with?
- Do I have trouble keeping or maintaining relationships with friends, family members, and coworkers?
- Am I avoiding specific social situations out of fear?
Getting clients to ask these questions will help determine if this process will benefit them. Having clients âbuy inâ to the process is important, to ensure that the approach is right for them and increase the likelihood that they will be engaged to complete activities with a reasonable degree of efficacy.
Recommended Reading: How Do Kids Become Autistic
What Are Life Skills For Autism
Also known as daily or independent living skills, life skills include an array of activities. Each activity enhances and supports your childs ability to live as independently as possible and enjoy a happy and fulfilled life.
Consider the following summary of the various life skills children can learn.
The Seven Categories Of Life Skills Necessary For Success For Autistic People
Also Check: Are Autism And Down Syndrome The Same
Ten Ways To Build Your Childs Independence
1. Strengthen Communication
If your child struggles with spoken language, a critical step for increasing independence is strengthening his or her ability to communicate by building skills and providing tools to help express preferences, desires and feelings. Consider introducing Alternative/Augmentative Communication and visual supports. Common types of AAC include picture exchange communication systems , speech output devices .
2. Introduce a Visual Schedule
Using a visual schedule with your child can help the transition from activity to activity with less prompting. Review each item on the schedule with your child and then remind him or her to check the schedule before every transition. Over time, he or she will be able to complete this task with increasing independence, practice decision making and pursue the activities that interest him or her.
3. Work on Self-Care Skills
Introduce self-care activities into your childs routine. Brushing teeth, combing hair and other activities of daily living are important life skills, and introducing them as early as possible can allow your child to master them down the line. Make sure to include these things on your childs schedule so he or she gets used to having them as part of the daily routine.
4. Teach Your Child to Ask for a Break
5. Work on Household Chores
6. Practice Money Skills
7. Teach Community Safety Skills
8. Build Leisure Skills
9. Teach Self-Care during Adolescence
10. Work on Vocational Skills
How To Find A Qualified Social Skills Therapist
Since there is no official certification for social skills therapists, it can be a challenge to find a qualified practitioner. Most of the best social skills therapists are not so much trained as born: they happen to be very talented therapists in their own field, with an innate understanding of how to help people with autism “get” how others think, feel, and act. Thus, the fact that someone has been trained in a particular social skills method does not necessarily make him or her an ideal therapist. Probably the best way to decide if a therapist is right for you or your child is to attend a few sessions.
Most school programs for children with autism do include social skills therapy. There is no guarantee that the person running those programs has specific training in or experience with running such programs, so it may be worth a parent’s time to inquire into just who is offering such programs and why they were chosen to do so. It’s not at all unusual for a school psychologist or social worker to run social skills programs with relatively little training or background.
If you are interested in finding private social skills therapy, a good idea is to start with your local Autism Society of America chapter or AutismLink, both of which offer information about local practitioners.
Also Check: Do Autistic Adults Live Independently