Self Help Skills for Autistic Children. Bright Tots - Information on child development - Autism information.  www.brighttots.com
Self Help / Life Skills for Autistic Children
Learning self help / life skills for children with autism parental involvement is vital for the success of acquiring new skills.
Parents work with teachers and therapists to identify the behaviors to be changed and the life skills to be taught. Recognizing that
parents are the child's earliest teachers, more programs are beginning to train parents to continue the therapy at home.

As soon as the child is diagnosed with autism, self help / life skills instruction should begin. Valuable programs will teach early
communication and social interaction skills. Parents can help their child use the self help skills or life skills learned at school
when they are at home.

All through your autistic child's school years, you will want to be an active participant in his or her education program.
Teamwork between parents and educators is essential to your child's progress. Because of the range and combination of
behaviors which may be present in a child with autism, no single approach is effective with all individuals who have the disorder.
Children with autism can perform the following with some guidance and intervention.

•        Self-help skills / life skills such as grooming and toileting
•        Communication skills, either verbally or through enhanced systems
•        Discovering age-appropriate recreational interests
•        Developing, appropriate behavior at home and in the community

Teaching Children with Autism Self Help / Life Skills

Toileting
- When teaching toileting to a child with autism parents should insist the child use the bathroom every 30 minutes to a
1 hour and set a timer. Use a kitchen timer to go off every hour to begin with. When the timer goes off again, tell him/her: “Time
to go to the bathroom” and follow a bathroom schedule. Increase the amount of time between setting the timer as your child
remains dry for longer periods of time. Provide your child with a lot of liquids (water, juice, etc.) to promote the urge to go to
the bathroom. Repetitive behaviors and routine is what children with autism understand so parents must be persistent when
adding toileting to their daily activities. Once the child has established a schedule of using the toilet repetitively the idea of using
the potty will be achieved. Do not give liquids before bedtime.

Eating - Children with autism need to be exposed to foods multiple times before they eat it and some times parents fall into the
habit of not placing a previously rejected food item on the child’s plate. Continue to offer the rejected foods it’s important.  
Autistic children can’t learn about food if it is not provided. Research shows that people form their eating habits early in life. Just
because a child is growing normally does not necessarily mean their diets are providing adequate amounts of many vitamins and
minerals.  For example, fruits and vegetables are often high in vitamins A and C, but low in iron, whereas meat and some
fortified grains are high in iron.  When children avoid whole food groups, they risk becoming deficient in several vitamins and
minerals.  A supplement can correct the deficiency, but some of the many health benefits seen from getting adequate nutrients in
foods are not seen when taking supplements.

Feeding - Encourage your children with autism to feed himself/herself by helping with your hand over his/her hand as you
scoop. Start easing your grip until your child is scooping all by himself/herself. Let your child practice feeding him/her. Begin
with the spoon and things that will not slide off (pudding, pureed fruits, and mashed potatoes). Try to do it without spilling. Let
him/her practice giving a bite to you or to a doll/stuffed animal. Move on to things that might spill more easily such as pieces of
fruit.

Drinking - Practice drinking from a straw and sip-cup. Bottles do not help with language development, so move to cups, as
soon as your child can drink from them. Put small amounts of liquid in the cup to start. Use a small cup. Move to more liquid
and a cup with no lid, when you feel your child is ready. Get him/her to hold the cup with two hands.

Brushing Teeth – Many children with autism hate brushing their teeth. Perhaps oral sensitivities may be the reason. First
parents must make this part of their everyday routine. If the child refuses to brush alone parents must brush for the child. When
teaching the child to brush their teeth parents should help by taking the following steps until this task is accomplished.

•        Turn on the water.
•        Put water on toothbrush.
•        Put a little toothpaste on the toothbrush.
•        Brush teeth by moving brush up and down.
•        Spit the toothpaste into the sink.
•        Turn off water.

A battery operated toothbrush that vibrates may interest an autistic child more than character toothbrushes. Make brushing fun
with flavored toothpaste or make up a brushing teeth song.

Dressing – Children with autism insist on wearing the same outfit everyday like a uniform. Many children with autism protest
when having to dress in the morning for school our family outings. When purchasing clothes buy items that will interest the child
and call their attention. Let your child help in getting dressed. If he/she cannot put on the shirt the right way, line up the tag and
place the shirt part way over his/her head. Let him/her pull it down. Help your child finish by putting his/her arm in the armhole.
Let him/her push /his/her arm all the way through by him/her. Teach your child that the label for pants and shirts goes in the
back. Let him/her practice by putting the clothes out for dolls or stuffed animals. Put the label side on the floor. Lay the doll or
stuffed animal with its back on the floor. Slide the clothes on.

Zippers - Teaching children with autism how to be independent is vital to their well being. While it’s tempting to help someone
that’s struggling to close a zipper, it’s a much greater to calmly teach the child how to do it themselves. Take a jacket and put it
on the table repeatedly and calmly show the child the two edges of strips of fabric tape and together slip one of the two pieces
into the other to be joined. Pull the slider, up, move along the rows of teeth making a Y shape.

Buttons – Take a pair of pants or button down shirt and teach children with autism by slipping the button through a fabric or
thread loop, or by sliding the button through a reinforced slit called a buttonhole. Let your child practice putting buttons through
holes. Choose some clothing that has big buttons and big button holes. First take buttons that are loose and slide them. Repetition
is vital when learning a new skill.

Washing - If a child with autism is having trouble using soap and washing him/her, let them practice by washing your arms or a
doll. Allow the child to put soap on you or the doll. Begin with your easiest faucet and work up to the faucet that is most difficult
to turn on or off. Run the water and say “Make sure you wipe off all of the soap!” Dry your hands when finished. Practice
drying off hands and arms. Feel to see if it is wet or dry.

Tying Shoes – This is called the two loop method, developed by a mother of a child with autism. You start with the usual "first
knot” cross the laces, tuck the top lace under and pull. Most kids can do this without much difficulty. Then, have them just do
the another knot again --again cross the laces, tuck the top lace under and pull again, but this time don't pull too tight. Leave
about enough room to stick a finger through. Then into this finger space, take the tip of the shoelace (the very end) and put it in
the hole. It doesn't even have to really go in the right spot. Push the tip through to form a "bunny ear". Next, take the other tip
and put it through the hole to form the second "bunny ear". The bunny ears do not need to be held or stabilized while the child is
doing this. Then pinch each bunny ear closed and pull. Make an X. Which one is on top? Put it under. Pull. Not too tight! One
tip. Two tip. Pinch. Pinch. Pull.

Bunny Ears Method - Crisscross the laces. Go under the bridge. And pull. Make the bunny ear (or loop). Wrap the other lace
around the bunny ear (or loop). Later wrap it around. When first teaching a child with autism shoelace tying, it may be easier for
the child to initially practice with the shoes at tabletop level rather than with the shoes on his/her feet.
BUNNY EARS or TWO-LOOP TIE METHOD
Child picks up shoelaces
Child crosses laces, laying them across front of shoe (verbal prompt is “make an x”).
Child puts upper lace under the crossed laces through the cross created with the shoe in a toe-to-tongue direction.
Child grasps a lace in each hand and pulls tight.
Child makes one loop.
Child makes second loop with the other shoelace.
Child crosses loops across the front of the shoe, maintaining grasp on the loops
Child puts upper loop under crossed laces through the triangle created with the shoe, in a toe-to-tongue direction.
Child grasps a loop in each hand and pulls tight.
Now push the lace through (the new loop) here comes the other bunny ear (or loop)!
Grab the bunny ears and pull.

Self Help / Life Skills Independence

Children on the autism spectrum often have poor fine motor skills.  This makes some of the most basic self help and life skills
difficult for children to master. Parents must initiate self help skills because it’s unlikely the child will dress independently or
button their coat in anticipation of the praise. Self help / life skills are essential for independence. Although it takes time to teach
and master these skills, the value is enormous. If the child feels more comfortable doing things themselves allow them. When the
parents assist the child in self help skills their only semi-independent. Continue to support them and praise them for their
accomplishment until they are successful. Use visual schedules and teach in simple steps until your child is able to complete
tasks without any intervention.  An added benefit is that your child will learn independence and responsibility which builds up
their self esteem.
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Self Help / Life Skills for Autistic Children
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