Children with autism can have difficulty performing the necessary habits or skills for independent living and social development, also known as Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) or Daily Living Skills (DLS).
In this blog, we’ll be looking at the following:
- What are daily living skills?
- Ways to teach daily living skills
- Activities for teaching daily living skills to teens and young adults
What are Daily Living Skills?
Daily living skills involve basic activities, including hygiene and time management. These activities may seem simple, but they require cognitive, motor, and perceptual skills simultaneously to perform these tasks. This makes them more difficult for those with autism considering they might be lacking in attention, motivation, motor skills, etc.
Some of the daily tasks include:
- Eating and drinking
- Dressing themselves
- Following routines
- Preparing/Cooking Food
- Saving money
Ways to Teach Daily Living Skills
There are plenty of ways parents can guide their children with autism through a more interactive approach to doing everyday tasks and breaking down tasks into more sizeable sub-tasks.
For instance, putting away toys can be less of a chore and more of a timed race, turning what might be a mundane task into an exciting game. For more complex tasks like washing dishes, it’s best to break them down into smaller tasks, like teaching your child how to dry dishes first.
Other tasks to consider breaking down or gamifying include:
- Washing their hands
- Sorting clean laundry
- Putting away dirty laundry
- Making their bed
- Brushing their teeth
- Feeding pets
- Watering plants
Activities for Teaching Daily Living Skills to Teens and Young Adults
Here are some tried-and-true ways to teach your teenager or young adult daily living skills where they can develop communication, executive functioning, and more:
Antecedent-Based Interventions (ABI)
ABI involves changing the environment to modify your learner’s behavior. For example, you can label where specific items belong for practicing organization skills or use a timer for daily and nightly routines for punctuality.
Behavioral Momentum Interventions
Start by encouraging your learner to complete easier tasks before getting to more complex tasks in whatever order makes sense for their particular context.
Exercise and Movement
Physical exertion is vital for stress management and relief, among other benefits, helping them prepare for when they face tasks or situations prone to be frustrating.
Functional Communication Training (FCT)
FCT provides your learner alternative ways to communicate frustrations they otherwise express in maladaptive ways, for instance, by giving them specifically designated phrases to use, such as, “Can we do something else?” or “I don’t like this.”
Show your teen or young adult how you’d like them to perform a task or behave by your own example, helping them visualize the behavior and making it easier for them to imitate.
Prompting your learner by word, gesture, or direct aid in completing a task is another way to encourage them to acquire a skill or engage in acceptable behavior.
Positive reinforcement of completed tasks is a great way to encourage and fortify your teen’s acquisition and retention of DLS, such as offering praise or rewards for their successes.
Encouraging your child and allowing them opportunities to self-manage tasks such as completing homework, house chores, daily routines, etc., is a great way to prepare them for independent living.
Social Skills Training
It’s important to teach and develop your child’s social skills by providing opportunities for them to communicate with others. Examples include writing a letter, making a phone call, asking for help, hanging out with friends, etc.
Similar to standard modeling techniques, video modeling allows for a greater array of skills and activities to be learned by visual example, giving your child a resource they can consistently use without depending on the availability of others present to show them.
Visual supports, including graphic organizers, visual schedules, checklists, etc., are great ways to fortify routines and expectations involving targeted skills and behaviors.