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Life Skills for Autism: 5 Ways to Foster Independence in Your Teenager

One of the most important things you can do for your autistic teenage child is help them foster a sense of independence. Showing them how to handle everyday tasks and providing opportunities to practice life skills can have a profoundly positive effect on their self-esteem and confidence. With you as your child’s greatest source of support, they’ll be able to achieve great things and learn the tools they need to lead a successful, happy life. It might not be easy, but giving your child the full range of opportunities their peers have can open up new possibilities for their future. Keep reading to learn more about autism independent living skills and how to set life skills goals for autism to foster independence. 

How Does Autism Affect Activities of Daily Living?

Autistic teenager behavior is influenced by common challenges that teens with this learning disability face. For example, you might find that your child has difficulty dealing with change or transitioning from one daily activity to another. Additionally, autism could impact your child’s daily living due to sensory challenges or communication barriers. Something as “simple” as going to the grocery store and interacting with a store clerk, can present more challenges for someone with a learning disability. 

Because autism impacts daily living activities, it’s essential to teach your teenage life skills for autism. Helping them develop the skills necessary to become independent while providing support when needed will allow them to gain confidence and have more freedom. 

What are Independent Living Skills?

In general, autism independent living skills include skills necessary to live independently, such as:

  • Personal hygiene 
  • Laundry
  • Grocery shopping
  • Food preparation
  • Transportation 
  • General shopping (clothing, hygiene products, etc.)
  • Managing finances
  • Room/home care

Life skills goals for autism will vary, depending on where your child falls on the spectrum. However, whether your child will live in your home their entire life or not, teaching them life skills for autism will help them become more independent and empowered.

5 Ways to Foster Independence in Your Teenager by Setting Life Skills Goals for Autism

Even if you’re just now starting to grasp the importance of fostering independence in your child, that’s okay! There are several simple and manageable ways to help your teen become more independent and learn life skills for autism.

1. Start with Small Goals

When it comes to setting life skills goals for autism, start small. Choose goals your child already achieves daily, but make it clear that these activities are central to their development and future success. For example, teach them how to check the weather and choose appropriate clothes for the climate. Introduce hygiene best practices beyond what they know, such as washing their face daily. Put these small yet significant goals on a daily planner to help your child create a solid foundation for self-care.

2. Provide Positive Reinforcement

Whenever your child completes a task, big or small, it is important to acknowledge their efforts and let them know you are proud of them. This can be as simple as making eye contact with your child, giving them a hug, or speaking encouraging words like “great job!” Not only will it motivate your child for the present task, but you will also help build their confidence for future successes.

3. Involve Them in Decision Making

One of the best ways to foster independence and teach your child autism independent living skills is to include them in daily decisions. For example, let them choose one meal they’ll make that week. Show them how to find a recipe online, go through the kitchen together, write down needed items, and create a grocery list before heading to the store. Doing shared independent living activities like this will help your teen build self-confidence and learn problem-solving strategies they can use in the future. 

4. Communicate Regularly and Create Environments for Communication

If your child struggles with spoken language, it’s essential to work on improving their ability to communicate, as communication is central to independent living. Start by providing tools to help your teenager express their feelings and preferences. Use visual aids at first, and introduce more verbal communication opportunities over time. 

5. Focus on Vocational Skills

The conversations about life skills and autism typically focus on daily living activities. However, a part of fostering independence in your teenager includes helping them learn and improve vocational skills too. Make a list of their strengths and interests, and begin creating ways for them to improve upon these things. Depending on your child’s diagnosis, they may be able to attend college and secure employment, and preparing for the future starts now. 

Residential Programs that Teach Life Skills for Autism

If you are looking for dedicated support for your autistic teenager to learn essential life skills and independence, you might consider a Residential Treatment Center and/or Special Education School for students with Autism Spectrum (ASD) and similar neurodevelopmental difficulties. These programs provide a supportive environment for students to learn, grow, and plan for future success in adulthood. Most of these programs prioritize family involvement and include multiple therapy types, educational plans, vocational learning, and more. 

If you’re worried about your autistic teenager’s behavior or feel they need additional resources to thrive, consult with your child’s medical team to determine the next best step in their journey. Or reach out to a Residential Treatment Center for Autism to ask questions and decide if it’s a good fit for your teen.

About the Author
Jenney Wilder, M.S.Ed launched All Kinds of Therapy in 2015, as the only independent online directory for the Family Choice Behavioral Healthcare Industry. With an impressive case of ADHD and her starter career in the 90’s in Silicon Valley, the dream for creating a website with features like side-by-side comparison and an integrated newsletter was born. Jenney stopped counting treatment centers and all types of schools that she has visited when she hit 500 many years ago.