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Fostering Independence in Your Teens

Working with your teenage children towards growth and independence can sometimes be a tug-of-war between providing guided support and allowing the right amount of freedom. This is blog-independence-main-landscapeespecially the case when it comes to children with special needs. Recognizing that it’s important to do a little bit of both is the key to success in independence!

Here are some proactive and reactive strategies to try that will allow you to foster independence in your teens:

Proactive Strategies  

  • Determine the Current Level of Independence

By looking at the many different areas of independence, from social interactions to daily living, figuring out where your child lies is a great starting point. By doing this you set yourself and your child up for success with directly pinpointing their areas of strength and deficit. From here, you can determine what they’ll need more support with and what they can begin completing independently.

  • Model the Behavior

One of the best ways for children to learn any behavior is through imitation. By modeling what a task looks like it gives your child the exposure and opportunity to imitate it. This can range from conversation skills and socialization to completing household chores and purchasing items.

  • Set Expectations

Setting clear expectations prior to emerging independence will give your child a set of rules to follow. With this, everyone will be fully aware of what the guidelines are when it comes to added responsibilities and freedom. Involving your child in the creation of these rules allows for an added bonus of independence and control. If they understand and discuss the ‘why’ behind the rule, they’re more likely to follow it!

Reactive Strategies

  • Provide Prompts

Providing the right type and amount of prompts will allow your teen to achieve the ultimate goal of independence, if utilized in the right way. Sometimes, too many prompts can teach your child to become prompt dependent. When this occurs they rely on the prompt to complete a task or activity and independence becomes less likely. On the opposite side, not enough prompts may teach your child the incorrect way to complete a task or activity.

Trying for independence first and then utilizing least to most prompting (below) is usually a good way to start:

  1. Vocal – Direct and/or indirect statements provided vocally
  2. Gestural – Physical movements indicating desired response (e.g. pointing, nodding, etc.)
  3. Partial physical – Minimal physical guidance using a light touch
  4. Full physical – Hand over hand physical guidance
  • Provide and Ask for Feedback

Much like including your child in creating expectations, providing and asking for feedback gives them accountability and control of their own development. Providing your child with feedback throughout their learning experience allows for progress and mastery to occur faster. It takes out guessing games and gives them exact corrective and positive information regarding their own behavior. Asking for feedback allows for growth in communication and relationship development. This gives your child a chance to be the one dictating what they need more or less of from you. Be willing to listen! When the experience is collaborative, the result is long lasting.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Jennifer Casale

Jennifer Casale

Jennifer Casale is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with experience working across settings and populations within the field. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree from The Florida Sate University in Psychology and her Master of Science degree from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Applied Behavior Analysis. Jennifer has 3 years of experience working in home, clinic, and school settings with children and adolescents who presented on the Autism Spectrum Disorder and other related developmental delays or disorders. Jennifer also has experience working with adults in day programs and group homes under the practice of Organizational Behavior Management. Typically Jennifer works in the area of Precision Teaching.

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