In a bid to foster greater independence it is important for children and young people to be involved in practical household chores as early as possible.
In addition to being good preparation for adult life it also helps children and young people with autism become integral members of the family as they feel they are making a valid contribution to family life. Some basic chores can be included into a sensory diet which is a “metaphor for engagement in targeted sensory inputs throughout the day consistent with the child’s sensory need”. The purpose of a sensory diet is to “maintain a regulated behavioural state” (Mills et al., 2016). The Impact of an In- Class Sensory Activity Schedule on Task Performance of Children with Autism and Intellectual Disability: A Pilot Study. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 79 (9), pp. 530 – 539.
Further information about Sensory Based Intervention or a ‘Sensory Diet’:
The object of a Sensory Diet is to provide sensory input for children and young people with autism to increase their alertness/ achieve the ‘calm alert state’. The activities included within the sensory diet will; calm the child who is over-responsive to sensory input, increase alertness if the child is under-responsive to sensory input or provide input to the sensory seeker consequently reducing hyperactivity and improve their levels of concentration. Case-Smith, J., Weaver, L.L., and Fristad, M.A. (2014) state that the activities included within a sensory diet should provide just the right amount of skill challenge. Therefore, if ‘heavy work’ tasks or household chores are being included within the child or young person’s sensory diet they need to be carefully considered and it may not always be appropriate to teach more complex skills such as laundry, cleaning the windows or hoovering.
Further reading about Sensory Processing and Sensory Diets:
- Vestibular: Under Responsive
- Sensory Based Strategies
- Sensory Diet Activities
- Research Bulletin – Sensory Processing
For a list of chores which are recommended for children and young people with Special Educational Needs please click here.
Points to remember
- Consider the child or young person’s interests and what chores would be motivating for them. To empower the young person a choice board could be used to give them the opportunity to select which chores/ skills they would like to learn.
- Start at the child or young person’s ability level: as with any task start with a task at which they will succeed with limited support before tackling the harder chores, this will boost their confidence and promote greater involvement.
- Consider their learning style: many individuals with autism tend to be visual learners so having visual instructions in either picture or word format will help them to complete the chore.
- If at first you don’t succeed: patience is key and it may be necessary to model the required steps and assist the child several times before they are confident to complete the chore independently.
- Praise: attributing praise to the effort which the child has put into the chore even if the outcome was not the desired one, will encourage the child to tackle the chore again.
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