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From research to practice…lessons learnt along the way!

We have written about this, academically and spoken about this on our podcast, but there is always a feeling that no amount of information or emphasis will ever do justice to the pressing need for smoother transition services and planning for children with ASD. 

We have been fortunate to provide services for many many children on the spectrum, from as young as 15 months of age to adults even and the one thing that does not get enough attention is the need to prep the child and the family and create an environment that supports this phase. 

So, what does being an adult even mean?

Before we even dive into the whole “taking care of your own needs” argument, let’s begin with the basics. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you are planning for your adolescent’s transition into adulthood.

  1. Can he appropriately ask for help when he can’t take care of himself? Let’s say he spills water while at a friend’s house, can he ask for a towel to clean it up with? Will he clean it up himself? Does he notice the spillage? 
  2. Goes to a new place, can he ask for where the washroom is? 
  3. Does he know what dress is appropriate/suitable to the occasion/weather?
  4. Forget the fancy bakes, does he know how to make a simple meal for himself?
  5. Does he know the social rules of acceptable proximity?
  6. Does he understand what he can say to whom, when and where and how much? 
  7. Does he know how to navigate a crowd without bumping into people?
  8. How about shopping for essentials and knowing what to do if something is not available?
  9. Know if he’s not feeling okay and be able to tell someone that somethings not quite right. 

The list is endless and some of these may actually seem frivolous to many people. But the truth is that many of the adults are completely ill-equipped to deal with life and have a long way to go before they can be called independent. It is important to differentiate between the person’s ability to complete a task, versus the person’s ability to recognize that the task needs to be finished, without a prompt. 

Looking back at our research study, we found that:

  • Many of the participants were dependent on their parents to help them pick what clothes to wear, take a towel into the bathroom, sometimes assist with having a bath, help them clean themselves after using the toilet, help them orient clothes in the right direction before putting it on. Some of the girls needed help changing their sanitary pads and managing their menstrual hygiene. 
  • Though some of them were assigned household chores, not all of them did it on their own initiate and had to be reminded time and again. Some of them refused to comply and would engage in aggressive behavior towards the parents if they were asked to complete the task
  • Some of the adults knew how to use a device but didn’t know how or when to put it on charge
  • Many of the parents regretted not working hard enough on communication skills. 

Looking at this, it is clear that something has to change in the way intervention is planned and delivered, if further generations of children with autism, need to enjoy a better quality of life. 

What are some things you can do?

  1. Start working on personal hygiene skills as early as three to four years of age
  2. Communication is ALWAYS work in progress, regardless of speech. Never miss an opportunity or a situation to help them learn to ask for something new/different. 
  3. Communication cannot be limited to you or to just responding to questions. 
  4. Teach every skill end to end, including variations and possible disruptions. 
  5. Teach them to follow a schedule, teach them to unfollow a schedule, teach them the rules, teach them to break the rules. Life is unpredictable
  6. Work hard on fading your assistance and your prompts. Remember, the child has to survive and thrive without you at some point and the training for that begins TODAY. 
  7. Keep trying to look at eyes through their eyes. That will tell you what you need to teach and how much you need to teach! 
  8. It is never too early to teach a skill, it’s never too early to change a behavior. Start today if you haven’t yesterday! 
  9. Remember the goal of all intervention is NOT to fix the child, but to enable them! 

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