Independence and young children with ASD

It is important for a young child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to begin to take responsibility for managing tasks in regard to themselves as early as possible. Sometimes it is just easier and more time efficient for the adult to do tasks on behalf of the child. For children with ASD it is going to take them longer to learn skills and to master them. If you engage your child in the activity with you and then gradually ease your support away, you are setting them on a path to independence and building their resilience.


During your child’s early years, the following are some developmental skills that you can help your child to learn in readiness for the future and to help get them ready for the school years.

Using a straw and a cup to drink from

Skills to encourage: Sucking, holding a cup steadily with two hands

Use of a spoon/fork/chopsticks to feed themselves

Skills to encourage: Identify your child’s dominant hand, use hand over hand to teach loading of the fork, spoon, chopsticks with solids before moving to more sloppy or liquid foods

Using the toilet by themselves or with minimal help

Skills to encourage: Commence with timed toilet training and then questioning to prompt self initiation “I want toilet”

Dressing themselves

Skills to encourage: Commence with basic help for your child to step into underwear and hand over hand to pull up, continue with other clothing items

Correctly name 10 objects

Skills to encourage: During daily activities take naturally occurring activities to name- toast, cup, ball, shoes etc

Knows that numbers are different to letters

Skills to encourage: During daily activities take naturally occurring events again, pointing at and saying ‘a’ for apple, ‘b’ for boy, counting blocks 1, 2, 3 and so on

Using technology to interact 

Skills to encourage: When a technology device is turned on teach your child the skills to interact with a game, looking at the screen, swiping the screen, clicking a mouse. Time limit access to technology to avoid fixation and obsession.

Developing and understanding that rules are to be followed

Skills to encourage:  When playing , teach turn taking and encourage ‘wait’ time

All the above skills can be taught during naturally occurring events during the day with your child. It is going to take longer for your child to develop some of these skills and others will develop more readily. Remember the time spent in the early training in these behaviours will have long term benefits.

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