The poet John Donne said “Be your own palace, or the world is your jail.” In order to create our own palace we must have the skills to do so. Many adults on the Autism Spectrum haven’t developed these skills. One of the major areas of focus for Autism Personal Coach is to develop independent living skills to help adults on the spectrum be able to build their own palace.
Before we start working on these skills, Autism Personal Coach thinks assessing the current or desired living arrangement for the individual is crucial. Will the adult be in the following living situation: living alone in a house, live alone in an apartment, living with family/ room mates in a house, living with family/ room mates in an apartment, supported living, or group home. Once that decision has been made we need to look at the skills the individual needs to be successful in that environment. Sure there are many skills that you need in all of these environments. However, there some skills that aren’t needed in certain living situations so lets not waste our time trying to work on them.
The first place that most people visualize independent living skills is in the home. Autism Personal Coach thinks that everything that is needed to be done in this environment falls into one of three categories. The first category is self help. Those are tasks such as flossing, washing hands and face, applying deodorant, showering, etc. The next category is kitchen skills. Those include cooking, making coffee, turning stove on and off, washing food, using the microwave, stirring, mixing, blending, etc. The third category is life skills. These are paying bills, ironing, vacuuming, making a bed, changing a bed, operating washer, operating dryer, etc.
Next we will identify what skills we need to develop in the home. Say we are going to work on making a bed. Autism Personal Coach will identify the component parts of that skill so that each individual component can be taught through a chaining process. Chaining is breaking down a skill into smaller units for easier learning. This is an important technique in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
While the internet has decreased the need to leave the home, developing independent living skills in the community is still important. The first thing we need to look at is how the individual can get into the community. If the adult doesn’t drive, do we want to work towards that goal? If not, lets look at public transportation and the skills needed for this. The option for transportation that we need to minimize or eliminate completely is having mom or dad driving the adult. This doesn’t help with our goal of independence for the adult. Once we get into the community, we need to look at what we are trying to accomplish. We need food to survive so being able to go to a restaurant or shop at the grocery store is vital. We need to go to the bank, dry cleaner, or buy products at stores. Does the individual have the skills to do those things? If not, we can teach that. We also look at the interests of each adult. Does the adult have the ability to participate in these interests in the community independently? If not, we can teach the skills so the individual can be as independent as possible in participating in these settings.
Currently, there are some great programs available to teach independent living skills. The only critique that Autism Personal Coach has of these programs is that they don’t always generalize these skills for adults on the Autism spectrum. Generalization is often a challenge for those on the spectrum. It is defined as the expansion of the adults performance ability beyond the initial conditions set for acquisition of a skill. Therefore, if an adult is in one of these programs then we suggest making sure that these skills that are learned generalize to their natural environment (home, community). If not, you can always call us and we can work on generalizing these skills.
Every adult that Autism Personal Coach works with will repeatedly hear the phrase “You can do it!” from us. We are often heard saying that phrase because we have a great belief that each adult is capable of so much. We want him/her to have the same belief in their self that we have in them. Combine this positive attitude with using the correct teaching methods based on ABA principles consistently great gains in independence can be achieved.
If you would like to like to discuss this topic further leave a comment or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.