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Autism and Independence, Part 2: Begin at the Beginning

Autism and Independence, Part 2: Begin at the Beginning



To begin to address building independence, we have to start at the beginning: foundational skills and abilities. In my training as an RDI Consultant, I have learned the importance of ensuring that foundational skills and abilities are in place before working on more complex, high-level skills. Working on higher-level skills in the absence of competence in lower-level skills is like teaching algebra before basic addition and subtraction. A person might be able to replicate and memorize some of the procedures, but will never have an understanding of the higher level processes or independently solve equations using dynamic thinking.


You can begin at the beginning level of independence skills at any age….it is easier to begin when children are young, but even adults can have remarkable success building independent functioning when beginning at the appropriate developmental level. In guiding individuals to begin assisting people with autism to increase their independent living skills, I find it helpful to refer to a list of life skills created by Christine M. Field, located in her book Life Skills for Kids. As an initial step, take a look at the list below and mark or jot down items that the person with autism can do independently as well as those that are not yet independent. Remember that independent means completely alone–no prompting is needed, the presence of another is not needed, the person knows when to do the item, etc. When you finish these lists, you will have a list of items that the individual is already able to complete with full independence as well as a list of skills and abilities that are opportunities for further development. Follow the blog for Part 3, outlining next steps to building independence using your list developed in today’s blog.


Information based on Life Skills for Kids by Christine M. Field


Responsibility in the Small Things

  • Dress Self

  • Help Make Bed

  • Pick up Toys/Belongings

  • Hang Clothing Up

  • Carry Laundry To and From Laundry Room

  • Fold Towels

  • Fold Clothes

  • Sort Clean Clothes by Family Member

  • Sort Dirty Clothes by Color

  • Iron

  • Empty Trash Cans

  • Take Trash to Curb

  • Assist with Meal Preparation—Stirring, Cutting

  • Cook Simple Foods

  • Prepare Meals

  • Pack Lunches

  • Help Carry and Put Away Groceries

  • Make Grocery List

  • Shop for Groceries

  • Carry Plate to Sink After Meals

  • Clear the Table After a Meal

  • Dry Dishes

  • Put Silverware in Dishwasher

  • Put Dishes in the Dishwasher

  • Load Dishwasher

  • Feed Animals

  • Clean Up After Animals

  • Bathe Animals

  • Wipe Up Spills

  • Sweep

  • Vacuum

  • Dust

  • Mop

  • Pick Up the Living Room

  • Change Light Bulbs

  • Replace Vacuum Cleaner Bag

  • Wash Windows

  • Clean Out Refrigerator

  • Clean Sink

  • Clean Toilet

  • Clean Shower/Tub

  • Clean Bathroom

  • Bring in the Newspaper

  • Retrieve the Mail

  • Water Plants

  • Pull Weeds

  • Rake the Yard

  • Shovel Snow

  • Mow Lawn

  • Wash the Car

  • Clean the Car’s Interior

People Skills

  • Table Manners

  • Set the Table with Informal Place Setting

  • Set the Table with Formal Place Setting

  • Take Phone Messages

  • Use a Phone Directory

  • Make a Call Using a Calling Card

  • Make a Collect Call

Life in the Home Skills

  • Create a Grocery Shopping List

  • Cut Coupons

  • Shop Together at the Store

  • Comparison Shop

  • Use Coupons

  • Bag Items Properly

  • Pay for Groceries

  • Cook Meals

  • Plan Menus

  • Measure Ingredients

  • Kitchen Safety

  • Use Recipes

  • Laundry

  • Iron

  • Clean

  • Use Cleaning Products

  • Do the Dishes

  • Make a Bed

  • Strip a Bed


Life Navigation

  • Walking Safety

  • Traffic Signals

  • Biking Safety

  • Use Public Transportation

  • Read a Map

  • Follow Directions

  • Learn First Aid

  • Use the Computer Safely

  • Use Public Restrooms

  • Tipping at a Restaurant

Time Organization

  • Use a Calendar to Organize Appointments and Commitments

  • Tell Time

  • Time Management

Space Organization

  • Organize Items in Bedroom

  • Organize School Materials

  • Reduce Clutter

Around the House

  • Fuses and Circuit Breakers

  • Appliances

  • Leaky Faucets

  • Clogged Drains

  • Clogged Toilets

  • Running Toilets

  • Caulking

  • Painting

  • Hanging Pictures

  • Changing Light Bulbs

  • Using Tools

  • Mow the Lawn

  • Sweep Sidewalks

  • Garden

Money, Money, Money

  • Calculate the Cost of Items

  • Advertising

  • Savings Accounts

  • Checking Accounts

  • Saving Money

  • Budgeting

  • Insurance

  • Credit Cards

  • Charity

Healthy Habits

  • Establish Hygiene Habits

  • Choose Clothing

  • Care for Clothing

  • Dental Care

  • Health Care

  • Hearing, Vision, and Immunizations

  • Fitness

  • Nutrition and Eating Healthy

  • Food Labels

  • Smoking, Drugs, and Alcohol

Your Mind’s Life

  • Organize Time for Studying

  • Organize Space for Studying

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