Behaviour and Daily Living Skills

Daily Living Skills

It is very important to teach your child positive social routines as early as possible. It is easier to introduce the correct way to do things, now rather than try to change difficult behaviours later on. Family life with your child should be much easier if he is introduced to his part in daily living skills from the beginning. He/She needs to know;

  • What is the right thing to do
  • Where he needs to do it
  • He needs to understand finished
  • How to move on to another place when he is ready

To begin with, teach these new skills at home and only when he is ready practice them in a new place.

Teaching your child to dress himself/herself

It is never too early for you to encourage your child to actively participate in dressing. You can encourage independence by putting the clothes that your child is going to wear into the correct order eg. have his vest and pants ready first, then T-shirt, jeans, shoes, socks etc. make it easy for him to see how they go on.

Don't expect him/her to be able to dress himself completely in the beginning. Break the sequence of dressing down into small steps and teach your child the sequence step by step. Sometimes it maybe helpful to put the clothes into a 'work basket'. Your child will learn to see what he/she has to put on, how much he/she has to put on and the order in which he/she puts it on. He/she will be able to see that the dressing routine is finished when his/her basket is empty.

It is important when you are teaching for independence that you don't talk too much and that you do use as many visual prompts as your child needs, eg pointing or for some children a hand-over-hand prompt. If you find yourself using too much speech you may see that your child becomes distracted or he becomes dependent on you to tell him what to do next. It is likely that you will have to follow this routine regularly before your child becomes independent.

It is much easier for children with Autism to learn new skills independently when you break them down into small steps and introduce structure.

Teaching your child positive routines at meal times

Some children may feed themselves but they may prefer to do it in their own way.They might protest when you try to change the way they do it. If you want to teach your child to use a spoon to feed himself you should introduce a positive routine as soon as possible.

  1. Minimise distractions eg turn off the TV / radio etc so that your child is able to concentrate on what is important.
  2. Your child needs to learn where he/she should eat. It is not good to allow him/her to eat anywhere he/she chooses. He/she should learn this positive routine in the most appropriate place eg. kitchen; at the table.
  3. Start by encouraging your child to use the spoon just once during a meal time. Then gradually increase the amount of times you ask him/her to use his spoon during meal times. This should be a slow build up to allow him/her to becme familiar with the routine you want him/her to follow.
  4. It may be helpful to stand behind your child and put your hand over his/her hand to help him/her use the spoon.

Many children with Autism do not understand boundaries and we need to teach them that there are certain places for doing certain things. This is particularly true about eating. As many of the pre-scool children in the Keyhole® Project were 'picky eaters', they often snacked throughout the day. They would eat as they watched TV, played or simply as they moved around the house. It is especially important for your child with ASD to learn that there is a time and a place for eating and you should introduce him/her to a positive routine for mealtimes and snacks. Food should be eaten at the table or in the kitchen. If you have to give your child food in another room then use a small tray so that you are introducing some boundaries to this activity. Mealtimes and snack times are like everything else, the child needs to understand, there is a start, a middle and a finish.

It is essential that you are consistent and aim for this positive routine regularly if your child is to learn the most appropriate way to behave when eating.

This is a very important skill as many of our social experiences are based around eating and drinking. Families need to be able to eat out from time to time. Snack time in nursery school is a key part of the curriculum and mealtimes at home will be more enjoyable if the child understands what he has to do.

As he/she progresses it will be possible for you and your child's teachers to introduce many more social communication skills based around food, provided your child has established a positive mealtime routine in his pre-school years.

Teaching Toilet Training

Teach your child to use the potty or the toilet only when he is showing signs of readiness ie:-

  • If he regularly stays dry for one and a half to two hours
  • If he hides when having a 'poo'
  • If he pulls off a wet nappy
  • If he looks as if he knows he is wetting his nappy

Your child needs to be aware of these before you even consider thinking about toilet training.

When you think your child is ready there are a number of things you need to think about before you start. It is important to estimate how often your child wets or dirties his/her nappy. Keep a diary for at least a week of your child's motions and work out if there are specific times your child pees or poos so that you will know when to prompt him/her to use the toilet. If your child sits on the toilet for too long without anything happening then he/she will not learn what he is supposed to do in the toilet. Instead he/she will just think the toilet is an unusual place to sit.
  • You may wish to increase your child's fluid intake to make him go more often while you teach the routine.
  • Put pants and not pull ups on your child so he/she will know when he is wet. Your child may feel more comfortable sitting on the toilet with a toddler toilet seat and a foot stool to support him/her.
  • Teach little boys to sit down to pee. They can learn to stand later when they have finished toilet training and are ready to stand.
  • Give your child a reward when he/she successfully uses the toilet. Explain this sequence to him/her by using a first/then schedule. eg.

FT1a.jpg  FT2.jpg  FT3.jpg

Give your child a transition object eg a toilet roll or a picture symbol to let him/her know when he is going to the toilet, to help him/her understand the toileting routine.

Some children with Autism do experience poblems with constipation and may have a fear of going to the toilet. Seek advice from your doctor on how to deal with
constipation. Laxatives may help your child pass a motion more easily.

Dealing with a fear of the toilet

Your child may refuse to sit on the toilet. He may seem quite terrified. Help your child slowly learn to be able to cope with this new routine.

Spend time in the bathroom doing pleasant activities. Your child might like to flush the toilet. He might like to sit on your knee while you sit on the toilet to look at a book together.

Then introduce your child to the toilet routine by giving him his object or picture cue to go to the toilet. Sit your child on the toilet for just a second and then give him/her a reward, eg a sweet. Each time encourage your child to sit for just a little bit longer and very slowly he/she will feel better about sitting on the toilet and you can begin toilet training.Example:-

Richard was showing signs that he was ready to be toilet trained. When he looked as if he was about to wet his nappy his mummy asked him “Do you want to use the potty” or “potty Richard”. This was all too much for him at the one time and he reacted by having a tantrum, it
was as if the very word “potty” set him off. A first/then card was introduced using Richards favorite chocolate buttons as a reward and he very quickly learned potty first and then buttons. This worked because he could see what his mummy was asking him to do. He was not confused by the speech. At this time the picture had more meaning for him than the spoken word. He was successful when he used the potty.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from other professionals if you need it.

Top Tips for Teaching Skills for Daily Living

  • It is never too early to begin teaching important self-help skills
  • Use a work system to help your child remember the steps in a new routine
  • Keep verbal instructions to a minimum to allow your child to focus on learning the new skill
  • Teach toilet training only when your child shows signs of readiness

A Guide for Childminders

After much reflection we have devised the following chart that parents could complete for childminders. It is produced in a re-usable format so you can update it easily. All children are unique and every child with Autism is an individual with his/her own likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.

To ensure that your child minder does the same things as you do please complete the chart to help your childminder. It is important to maintain positive routines once they are established and to enable your childminder to be consistent you need to tell them all those things you know instinctively about your child.

Help your childminder to understand your child and make the whole experience enjoyable for everyone.