Teaching Life Skills at Home- A Delicate Balance


Teaching Life Skills at Home- A Delicate Balance

So I’ve been a little focused on prompting lately. Am I prompting too much or too little?  Am I pushing too hard or not pushing enough?  Am I pressuring my child to do what I want him to do, before he is ready to do it?  Or am I presuming competence and expecting him to rise to the challenge in his own time?

My son has low muscle tone, dyspraxia, and other autism related challenges. Teaching him self care skills like getting dressed is not a goal to be achieved in a week or a month.  It is a process.  And that is OK. 

Throughout this process I go about my day and internally assess all of the things I could be doing- or not doing to help Gabe gain more independence.  And not just me. I’ve  also been known to scrutinize my husband on occasion and find myself yelling from the next room—“let him do it himself, wait for him to do it!” 

I listen to our BCBA, I read all the notes from the OT at school. I know what needs to be done. Yet, there are times when I know I should wait to have him align the zipper on his jacket, and instead take the easy way out and do it for him.  There are also times when I push him too hard and he lets me know it!  It can be confusing finding the right balance. 

What I have learned as a parent to my sweet boy is to slowly raise expectations over time while offering emotional support and prompting when needed. It is also important for family members, Occupational Therapists, and teachers to be on the same page while teaching skills.  If not, the process will be slower and more confusing for him. 

I have consciously become more in-tune with Gabe and have been picking up on subtle nonverbal cues.  Recently, I have noticed some anxiety that my son has while we work on dressing.  When I prompt him to take his shirt off in a certain way, he tenses up.  It has to do with taking his shirt off over his head, and I believe the fear is of getting his head stuck in his shirt.   So I came up with another way for him to take off his shirt.  I am working on paying extra close attention for any signs of distress and to reduce unnecessary anxiety.

I find problem solving to be one of the biggest parts of raising my son. Lucky for us, it’s 2020 and there are so many more products available for people with different abilities. A lot is trial and error and the tricky part is not wasting too much money in the process.  Please see end of post for a list of products that have helped Gabe gain independence in dressing himself.

There are many life skills that we need to teach our kids, special needs or not. Some children take longer to master certain milestones, whether it’s reading, toilet training or getting dressed. Our job as parents is to continue to guide them towards independence while maintaining the delicate balance of offering support and holding the expectation.  Some days it’s more support than expectation while other days it swings in the other direction.  And then there are days when I do all the work because we are in a rush or I’m too tired and am in need of coffee.  And I tell myself it is OK.

Denzien Jeans - Found at Target among other stores, these soft comfy jeans are elastic and zipper/button free.

Children's Place  Cargo Pants- Pull up/elastic cargo pants have been a go-to for us for several years now. 

EZ Sox- the loops on the side of these help little fingers grasp the top of the sock and pull them up.

Billy Footwear- A side zipper and large flap opening aid in placing feet inside the sneaker. 

Therapy Source sells an inexpensive digital book on teaching steps of getting dressed.

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