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Home Alone: How To Know When Your Children Are Ready

Deciding when your child is ready to stay home alone can be challenging.  Some young children may insist that they are ready before you think they are, whereas some teenagers may feel nervous even though you feel confident in their abilities. While most experts agree that children should be at least 10 years old to stay home without adult supervision, there is no magic number of when children will be ready. Before determining whether your children are ready to stay home alone, ask yourself the following questions.

Is Your Child Ready To Stay Home Alone:girl happy

  1. Does my child show responsibility?
  2. How does my child handle unexpected situations?
  3. How aware is my child of safety procedures?

If you feel confident in your child’s abilities to show responsibility, stay calm in unexpected situations, and use safety guidelines, then the next step is to prepare your child to stay home alone. Below are 8 practical tips.

8 Ways To Prepare Your Child For Staying Home Alone:

  1. Check in with your child about how he/she feels about staying home alone.
  2. Explore any anxieties or fears your child has and provide active listening, support, and problem solving.
  3. Create a consistent safety plan with your child (i.e. emergency numbers, home security system, ways to reach you).
  4. Review with your child what is expected during the time he/she stays home alone (i.e. homework completion, can/cannot have friends over, can/cannot use certain appliances) .
  5. Give your child tasks or activities to do while you are gone (i.e. crafts, new movie, game).
  6. Role play with your child various scenarios (i.e. someone comes to the door, someone calls the house, smoke alarm goes off, someone gets hurt) that could happen while you are gone to help him/her feel confident and prepared.
  7. Practice with your child by leaving the house for 30 minutes and discussing how your child felt.
  8. Give praise whenever your child is able to stay home and follow all of the rules and guidelines!

We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas! What have you used to gage your child’s readiness to stay home alone? What tips would you give to other parents?

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The Importance of Teaching Self-Advocacy Skills to Children with ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurological condition associated with under activation of the frontal lobe. This area of the brain is also associated  boy with ADHDwith the executive functioning skills such as organization, time management; planning, impulse control, cognitive flexibility, and ability to self monitor one’s work. Children with ADHD without a doubt demonstrate poor executive functioning. These children have difficulty initiating action on tasks, organizing materials appropriately, managing time effectively, etc. These are all skills that can be developed and improved; however, they are also areas that need be accommodated in order for the child to perform to his or her ultimate potential. Many articles and blogs (link to my past blogs on EF) have been published regarding teaching executive functioning skills. There is also ample work out that there that provides accommodations that teachers may utilize in the classroom setting. We can teach the child the skills, we can accommodate the child; however, if the child is not a self advocate than it is all for naught.

 Step 1 To Teaching Children To Advocate For Themselves:

The first stage to begin to develop self advocacy skills is for the child to be able to recognize that he or she exhibits weaknesses or deficits with particular skill sets. Explain to the child (in child friendly terms) what it means to lack organization skills, have difficulty planning, and struggle with time management. Use daily examples from the child’s life (e.g. how long did homework take last night? How long should have it taken?). Once the child identifies that there is a problem he or she can then work on solving the problem.

Step 1 To Teaching Children To Advocate For Themselves:

The next step is to target one task at a time. Work with the child to create a list of areas that can be improved (e.g. morning routine, homework, organizing his/her room). Once the list is created, have the child number them in order from the biggest problem to the smallest problem. Self advocacy skills are developed by the child being able to develop the solution to the problems through Socratic dialogue with parent and not by parent simply providing a list of what needs to be done (e.g., what do you have to do first? …., well, that is one step, but is there something that needs to go before that?). This process is time consuming and will create headaches for many parents on a daily basis. However, if you ultimately want the child to develop the skill set, he or she must develop the solutions. After the first problematic behavior is tackled, the parents and child should then target the second one on the list in a similar manner. There are many strategies and devices (use of timers, checklists, etc) that are way too exhaustive to be explained in this blog that are wonderful tools to help with task completion; however, the first step is for the child to identify that he or she needs help.

The ultimate goal of childhood is to develop independence and skills necessary to live in society. One of the most important skills to develop is self-advocacy; to be able to identify that one has a problem and also to know when to seek others out for help and guidance.

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Life Skills For Children and Teens With Autism

When a child with autism reaches the age of nine or ten, it is important to start emphasizing life skills within their therapy and classroom curriculum. Life skills have been defined by the World Health Organization as “abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.” Within the last ten years many special education programs have been veering away from life skills prioritizing an academic standardized curriculum more aligned to the needs of a general education population. While these skills are important when preparing for college or a future job position, it is just as important to know how to perform life skills.

Below are some ideas of ways to practice life skills whether you are a teacher, therapist, or parent with a child with autism:

Take public transportation– Whether in the classroom or on a field trip, taking public transportation provides many opportunities to build life skills. Have the child look at a map to decide what bus or train route is best. Have them count out money to buy a ticket and ring the bell when they have reached their stop.

Make Lunch– Teach your child to make a simple lunch food such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You will need to model this in the beginning, and depending on the child’s fine motor abilities, you might have to provide assistance when spreading the condiments on the bread. But the best thing about making food is that when it is a food the child likes, the end result of eating it is naturally reinforcing.

Grooming routine– Brushing teeth, brushing hair, taking a shower and putting on deodorant are all life skills that become important to master during adolescence and the early teen years. Break each task into steps, and if necessary, provide pictures of each step to assist the child in remembering “what comes next.”

Complete a daily chore– Start to assign your child a daily chore and have them complete that same chore until they have mastered it. It is best to start with a simple two- to three-step chore like carrying dirty clothes to the laundry room (e.g. pick clothes up from off the floor, carry them to the laundry room, drop them in the laundry basket). Whichever chore you choose, you will need to model each step in the beginning and provide prompts to assist with each step.

Joining a social group or life skills group is a great way to have a professional assess which skills your child would thrive at best!