Due to the defining features of autism, deficits in executive functioning and many of the intervention strategies that encourage an over-reliance on adult support appear to be contributors to poor long term outcomes for adults with ASD in employment, housing and relationship development (Hume, K., Loftin, R. & Lantz, J., 2009).
Webber and Scheuermann, (2008) emphasized that when students with autism understand what is expected, they are more likely to perform correctly and independently.
As a caregiver, ask yourself:
Am I helping the individual with ASD understand what is expected?
How do I know?
Have I taught the expected skill to the individual?
Has the individual learned the skill?
Do they have opportunities to practice the skill in different locations and with different people?
What other skills are needed for the individual to have greater independence?
Examples of ways to integrate independence and integrity
Ensure the child/adult can perform the skill in a variety of environments and situations. Practice the new skill in a variety of locations, with different individuals, etc.
Provide opportunities for the individual to choose
Be creative. Do you want a blue cup or a red cup? Do you want to take a bath first or brush your teeth first? For leisure time, the individual can choose from a picture choice chart of leisure activities the individual enjoys/prefers or a list of leisure activities depending on the individual. Avoid making every decision for the individual.
Reinforce the individual's attempt
Koegel, L., Koegel, R., Harrower, J. Carter, C., (1999) indicated that children with autism are more responsive during teaching interactions when their attempts were reinforced vs. a narrow criterion
Use incidental teaching procedures
Use incidental teaching procedures within the context of naturally occurring situations within one's day to increase spontaneous responses and increase generalization of skills.
Preview the activity or task before it is presented for completion. Organization from Autism Research (OAR), Asperger Syndrome - Educator's Guide, (2005), states that priming can accommodate the student's preference for predictability, promote the student's success with the activity, reduce the likelihood that the student will experience anxiety and stress about what lies ahead.
Allow additional time for the individual to process information
Shifting from one thought process to another can be difficult for individuals with an ASD. OAR, (2005) stresses the importance of grouping similar items or questions together on quizzes and tests.
Write only key words in response to a question, rather than complete sentences. Incorporate multiple choice, fill in the blank, matching, and/or short-answer questions vs. essay questions. Allow the individual to underline or highlight answers to questions in reading passages. Allow student to use a computer, PDA, or I-Pad to type vs. write the answer.
Attwood, T., (2007), emphasized that some children with Aspergers can improve their handwriting skills with remedial classes on handwriting but also stated that the exercises could be boring and resisted by the student. He also stated that an occupational therapist can recommend modifications such as using a slanted writing surface or a pen grip however, he stressed the importance for a student with Aspergers to learn to type, use a keyboard, computer and printer vs. stressing over the legibility of one's handwriting.
Clear expectations of task
Provide a model of what is expected on an assignment. Example: A specific list of grading criteria or a model of an "A" paper and a "C" paper. OAR, (2005)
A visual of where class can be found, a visual of the sequence of the classes (OAR, 2005), a visual of a route to catch the bus, go to work, post office, etc. can be helpful for the individual.
Focus on improving conversation ability
Teach how to give and receive compliments and criticism, awareness of when and how to interrupt, ability to make connecting comments to introduce a change of topic, the ability to use repair comments, knowledge of how to ask questions when confused as to what to say or do (Attwood, T., 2007).
Teach and ensure understanding of self-help skills
Example: Visual prompts such as task/activity sequences may be helpful when one is getting dressed, toilet training, bathing and other personal hygiene skills.
This can begin with teaching a child to self-monitor certain behaviors. Of course a child will have to have a clear picture of what behavior he/she will be monitoring. Video modeling of the behavior to monitor may be one way to teach a child to self-monitor.
Also, reinforce the child's attempts to self-monitor. Ganz, J. (2008) explained that self-monitoring is a pivotal behavior. She continued and shared that when children with an ASD learn to self-manage, they can easily apply that skill across a variety of contexts with fewer resources - teachers, therapists, teaching time, and materials, etc. Ganz clarified that research indicates that even if a child does not accurately self-monitor, the skills will still increase due to the child's awareness of the behavior. Benefits for individuals with an ASD have been improvements in on-task behavior, socially appropriate comments, responses to others, completion of self-help tasks, sharing toys and social initiations. It has been instrumental in decreasing echolalia, self-stimulatory behaviors and disruptive behaviors in individuals with an ASD (Ganz, 2008).
Teach and ensure understanding of safety and survival skills
Example: Personal space, appropriate touch, how to cross a street, how to ask for help, how to approach a police officer, etc.
Teach how to recognize emotions
A phenomenal resource of how to recognize emotions can be found here - https://www.thetransportors.com
Teach sex education
This can be a tough subject for caregivers. However, clear expectations of changes to occur in one's own body and what is 'O.K.' or 'forbidden' in public is a must.
Increase decision making and choices
Early intensive behavioral intervention/treatment (20-40 hrs week of individualized instruction)
Activity schedules (sequence of skills)
Video modeling (self-help, play skills and social skills)
Structured work system
For older students, Webber and Scheuermann listed self-monitoring and working independently as two important skills for older students to master for successful employment.
Zager, D. and Shamow, N., (2005) stated that teaching independent skills allows children more opportunities to practice and maintain more appropriate repertoires of behavior without adult supervision.
Therefore, we can integrate skills that increase independence into one's daily routine to ensure they will live as independently as possible.
References: The Complete Guide To Asperger's Syndrome - By Tony Attwood (2008)