As parents our number one job is to grow our children into adults and kids on the spectrum need more time and practice to master the life skills needed to have a productive, meaningful life. So, what is your plan on teaching your child… do have one? Parents with children with ASD spend hours pouring over IEP goals and services, but how much time do you devote to your parenting plan?
In my workbook and workshops, I teach parents how to develop a parenting plan based on your family values and what is important to you. Your parenting plan can be as basic or elaborate as your need it. Depending on the age of your child and their needs your parenting plan might be focusing on bathing, and identifying clean and dirty clothes, or grocery shopping and practicing making dinner.
Last year Peter and I decided that we wanted to establish a daily bathing schedule along with identifying a pattern for clean and dirty clothes. We taught Tristan that everyday he needed to shower which included instructing him how to wash his body and hair. To go along with bathing we taught Tristan that everyday he needed a clean shirt, underwear, and socks, and every second day he needed to change his pants.
First, we used picture boards to explain the steps and slowly we took away the supports. We have picture boards on the dressing sequence (1. underwear, 2. pants, 3. shirt, and 4. socks), showering (1. wash face, 2. arms, 3. legs, 4. bottom, 5. penis, 6. mid-section, and 7. hair), and the morning routine (1. undress, 2. shower, 3. dry-off, 4. get dressed, 5. floss teeth, 6. brush teeth, and 7. go down stairs).
Tristan took about a year to master his morning routine; some sections took less time to teach than others. Now, Tristan does his entire morning by himself… he even gets his backpack ready for school!
Our plan for this spring and summer is to teach Tristan to walk up our street by himself to a neighbor’s house. We have been practicing since the snow has melted from our street— the other mom stands at the end of her driveway and I pace at the end of mine and Tristan walks to the other house.
We review street safety with Tristan including walking on the side of the road (no sidewalk) and keeping your head-up so you can see cars approaching. I use direct language, like “head up, look for cars, and stay on the side of the road”. I make the language and instructions as simple as possible. Peter and I figure that by next spring Tristan could be able to walk the street without us supervising.
One of our overall parenting goals for Tristan (and Dylan and Liam) is to give them all the skills they need to be independent adults. What we have realized is that Tristan needs more supports and more time to practice the life skills we are responsible for teaching and developing, so we decided to begin earlier than later.
When Tristan was in my womb I never imagined the depth of parenting we would take on and sometimes it does seem overwhelming and frustrating, but we made a choice to be parents and you can never predict how your life will unfold.