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Adjusting to a New School Year With a Child With Autism

The new school year is just around the corner, and with the new school year comes changes for both children and parents. These changes can include new routines, new teachers, new classmates, and possibly a new school. Children with autism thrive on routine, so these changes may be more difficult for them. Below are some strategies to make this adjustment to the new school year go smoothly.

Strategies to Help Your Child with Autism Adjust to the New School Year:

  • Begin the new routine a few weeks or even a month early – This will allow your child to adjust to theHelp Your Child with Autism Adjust to School new bedtime and wake-up routine before the school year begins. Also include any dressing and eating routines that normally occur during the school year.
  • Create a visual schedule for your child to follow – This can help with daily routines such as dressing, eating, and bedtime routines.
  • If your child is going to a new school take a tour of the school and visit all the areas your child will go (classroom, lunch room, gym, bathroom, etc.).
  • Meet the teacher and classroom staff – This will allow your child to get acquainted with all of the people he will be working with during the school year. It also allow the staff to become familiar with the child and for you to ask any questions you may have about the upcoming school year.
  • Share important information with the teacher – Provide notes for the teacher which include any triggers that cause behaviors to occur, along with successful strategies on how to handle these behaviors. Also give a list of items/activities that can be used as reinforcers.
  • Keep open lines of communication between you and the teacher – Let your child’s teacher know from the beginning that you would like to have open communication and that you want to be informed of both issues/concerns as well as successes.
  • Allow for an adjustment period – Everyone takes time to adjust to new things. Allow time for both you and your child to adjust to the new school year, and remember to be patient with your child during his adjustment.

What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

promoting independence in a child with autism

How to Promote Independence in a Child With Autism

A common goal for parents is to raise their children so they become independent functioning adults. This goal should be the same even for children with autism. Yes, they may take longer to learn certain skills, but most skills can be systematically taught. Independent living skills, also known as adaptive skills, are necessary for children with autism to learn in order to reduce the amount of assistance they will need as they develop into adults.

Tips to Develop Independence in Children with Autism:

  • Have high, yet realistic expectations – Only challenge your child to do things you know theyPromoting Independence in a Child with Autism can currently do. If your child has fine motor delays it would be unreasonable to expect them to tie their shoes without any prior training. However, they could start by putting both shoes on by themselves.
  • Set attainable goals – The goals can be either short-term (Removing socks independently) or long-term goals (Completing dressing routine independently)
  • Start small – If your child cannot use buttons, start working on strengthening their fine motor skills and hand strength. Then eventually you can work up to using buttons.
  • Don’t do everything for your child – When you are in a rush it is usually easiest just to do everything for your child, but this is not helping them learn necessary skills. If your child is able to do a skill, make sure they have multiple opportunities to practice. They may involve rearranging your schedule slightly to allow for extra time for them to get dressed, take a bath, etc.
  • Start as soon as possible – Don’t wait until your child is reaching the teenage years to start teaching adaptive skills. Look at typical developmental milestones to see at what age children learn to do certain skills. Even children as young as 2 can start helping with their dressing routine, cleaning up, and other independent living skills.
  • Do not give in to behaviors which may be exhibited due to difficult tasks – If a particular task is challenging for your child, expect them to exhibit some negative behaviors in an attempt to get out of completing the task. In these types of situations, you will need to ignore all negative behaviors and make sure they complete the task instead of avoiding it.
  • Reinforce independent skills – When you see your child engaging independent behaviors, reward them so these behaviors continue in the future.

What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

Dressing Skills: Developmental Steps for Kids

Dressing may seem like a simple task, but it is actually a task that requires multiple skill sets from children. Dressing requires skills girl dressing such as fine and gross motor coordination, body awareness, bilateral coordination, right/left discrimination, postural stability, and motor planning. As a parent, it can be difficult to know at what age a child should develop certain skills in dressing.

Developmental steps of self-dressing skills in children*:

1 year:

  • Pulls off shoes
  • Removes socks
  • Pushes arms and legs through garments

2 years:

  • Helps pull down pants
  • Finds armholes in pullover shirts
  • Removes unfastened jackets
  • Removes untied shoes

2.5 years:

  • Removes pull-down elastic waist pants
  • Unbuttons large buttons
  • Puts on front button shirt

3 years:

  • Puts on socks and shoes (though it might be the wrong feet or socks upside down)
  • Puts on pullover shirts with some help
  • Buttons large buttons
  • Pulls down pants
  • Zips and unzips with help to place on track

3.5 years:

  • Identifies front of clothing
  • Snaps fasteners
  • Unbuckles belt
  • Buttons 3-4 buttons at a time
  • Unzips jacket zipper

4 years:

  • Removes pull over shirts without help
  • Buckles belt
  • Zips jacket
  • Puts on socks correctly
  • Identifies front and back of clothing

5 years:

  • Dresses alone
  • Ties and unties knots

6 years:

  • Ties bows and shoelaces

According to Jayne Shepherd (2005), achieving independence in dressing may take up to 4 years. During this time, parents gradually perform fewer of the tasks, and encourage their children to do more, with the ultimate goal of independence.

*Source:

Shepherd, J. (2010). Activities of daily living and adaptations for independent living. In J. Case-Smith, (Ed.), Occupational therapy for children (5th ed., p., 501). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

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