I hope everyone enjoyed Independence Day. Independence… a word we take for granted on so many levels. As parents, our goal is to make our children as independent as possible – ALL of our children. Of course, independence is relative in the special needs community and especially so in the AHC community. I have always tried to nurture Kathleen’s independence by assigning her age-appropriate responsibilities. I grew up with a sister who is developmentally delayed. While my parents cut her slack, they treated her as “normal” as possible and there were always particular chores they expected of her. As Kathleen grew up, I strived to do the same as my parents. Don’t just take it from me, your therapists – OT and PT, suggest “normal” tasks all the time.
Of course when we talk about responsibilities and chores among our AHC kids we are obviously referring to the part of the day when they are not having an episode. When Kathleen is not episodic, I expect her to pick up her room, prepare her own snacks and get dressed on her own among other things. I know we are programmed as parents to take care of our children and I too am guilty of “giving in” and treating my daughter as a Princess at times. However, my family and I have always tried to keep an equal balance between helping our AHC child and encouraging our able Kathleen to do things on her own.
Independence can start with small tasks… picking up toys and putting them in a basket or pouring a snack into a bowl. As they grow, continuing to introduce simple life skills will only enhance and increase your child’s independence. Ask your child to be part of chores such as: emptying the dishwasher, setting or clearing the table and assisting with the laundry. Most importantly, always present tasks ONE at a time until mastered. This helps to nurture a sense of accomplishment and when the next task is introduced, it will hopefully be a positive and possibly exciting experience for your AHC kid.
I know we all struggle to find a balance between helping our children and asking them to do it on their own. But, I think the best way to help your child is to teach them how to HELP themselves.
Do you assign particular responsibilities/tasks to your child? What kinds of tasks? If you have a little one or currently assist your child 24/7, what can you do moving forward to aid in their independence?