Striving to achieve an optimal level of independence

Many individuals with autism have poor executive functioning. This can result in a reduced ability to initiate a task, maintain concentration and sequence the necessary steps to be carried out.

They can also find it challenging to transfer skills learnt in one setting to another, i.e. school to home or vice versa. Consequently, individuals with autism tend to struggle to function independently and so rely on parents or other caregivers to meet/ cater for their daily needs. Although help is often necessary it is important that the individual does not become over reliant on prompting and support from adults as it fosters dependence, (Schack, 2014).

Autism is a spectrum disorder thus the level of expected independence will vary from individual to individual. The age and developmental levels of the individual must be taken into consideration. For some, it may mean performing basic self – care tasks without significant assistance or prompting such as brushing teeth, washing hands or showering/ bathing. For others, it may be securing employment, managing their income or making nutritious meals.

Helping someone with autism to develop life skills is the best way to maximise their independence. It is also necessary that you help the individual to understand not just what they must do but also why they must do it. For example, they may not understand the importance of self – care and how it will impact upon their success at school or work. Dr Temple Grandin wrote of an employer who “plunked a jar of Arid deodorant on my desk and told me that my pits stank.”  He also had his secretaries take her shopping for appropriate clothes and teach her proper grooming. Few employers would so directly and kindly intervene. Even brilliance may not overcome body odor, unwashed hair, or food stained clothing once a person with autism is trying to make their way in the larger world. ( daily_living).

In the following video Dr Temple Grandin advocates that parents teach independence through life skills to all children as was typically done in the 1950s. (Please do not share this video)


Personal perspective of Dr Temple Grandin about the value of work experience from an early age:

(Watch from 7:42 – 8:42, Please do not share this video)

Greater independence will ultimately result in improvements in the individual’s self – esteem, self – worth and quality of life.(Link to Building Capacity, Family and Home Intro Section).

Read previous: ← Self – Esteem