I did it by myself!

The sentence above holds a deep meaning, one of therapeutic value. It requires precision and skill to perform tasks as mundane as brushing, eating or dressing and often-times, in conditions as challenging as Autism, this is a persistent obstacle.

One may render greater value to the common difficulties faced by kids with autism such as in communication, behaviour and socializing, than the ones faced while performing basic activities of daily living (BADL). However, it is also crucial to address self-help skills.

What are self-help skills?

Self-help skills commonly include those skills that enable one to perform their BADL such as eating, maintaining personal hygiene, toileting, dressing, grooming and a few others.

Why is it important to address self-help skills in children with Autism?

Making a child perform or help to perform self-help skills boosts their self-esteem. It is but a well-known fact that a higher self-esteem motivates an individual to perform better including children.

How to train them?

At the initial stages, parents can ask their therapist to identify and explain the individual difficulties encountered by the child.

Children with autism can be grouped into two:

  • With some gross and fine motor skills needed to perform a self-help activity for e.g. shoulder stability and finger control for brushing, &
  • Without these basic skills

Now the parent can focus on developing the basic skills in the latter group using Sensory integration and other therapeutic modalities taught by their therapist, whereas the former group can actually begin participating in the process.

Chaining is the most commonly employed therapeutic tool to make a child with autism understand and develop concept about a particular activity. Just as one gets the child to participate in a therapy session by linking activities to each other, the child can be taught to perform each step of a given self-help activity in a forward or backward chain. For e.g. Toileting requires walking upto and opening the toilet door, entering and unbuttoning the trousers, pulling them down and sitting. Initially the caregiver can be trained to perform two steps for the child, and teach the child the next two steps. Gradually, all steps can be linked together and with practice, a skill can be developed.

Visual cues and prompts may be included. Colorful printouts with photographical representation of each step can be an example of a visual cue. Social stories may also be used as the stories contain relatable scenarios.

To conclude, children with autism as they grow, may turn into individuals with limited engagement in daily activities. Parents may then find it laborious to perform each daily living activity for their child. Thus, an early emphasis must be placed on training children with autism to engage in self-help techniques.

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