Teaching Self-Care Skills to Kids with Autism - Autism Mom, ABA Help for Professionals and Parents (2022)

Many parents and professionals struggle with how to teach kids with autism activities of daily living. Activities of daily living include how to dress, how to shower, how to wash hands, and how to clean up for meals for instance. So today I want to talk about how I learned through this book, Activity Schedules for Children with Autism, and how you can create little books to make self-care skills and other daily living skills a lot easier to teach.

Each week I provide you with some of my ideas about turning autism around, so if you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel, you can do that now and join the 25,000+ others who already have.

(Video) Teaching Self Care Skills and Independent Behaviors to Kids with Autism

What are activities of daily living?

I have done some video blogs in the past on things like teaching shoe tying which you can check out on my YouTube channel. I haven’t done a whole lot of videos though about how I taught Lucas and how I taught other clients how to dress, how to wash their hands, how to use utensils and all kinds of independent living skills, specifically, activities of daily living that often get in the way. I didn’t say it in this video introduction, but in addition to being a behavior analyst and an autism mom, I’m also a registered nurse and in the past as when I was a practicing registered nurse on a medical-surgical unit in a rehab setting, I always worked with neurologically impaired patients who oftentimes had strokes or head injuries or brain tumors. They had to learn or relearn a lot of things, like how to talk, to walk, to toilet train, to use utensils, and various other activities of daily living. And so a lot of my self-care practices that I now disseminate through my online courses and community are based a lot on my nursing background.

Task analysis: break down daily living activities

I have a couple of examples that I want to talk to you about. So one time I was in a verbal behavior classroom and it was early on, so this is probably 2004 or 2005. I was in a few classes and I went to this one class and it was an older child life skills class so not all the students in there had autism. In fact, a lot of those students didn’t have autism. They had other disorders like down syndrome. I remember we were talking about this 14-year-old girl with down syndrome and the teacher was kind of upset because here we are going in and some of the other consultants were using words like the discriminative stimulus or the mands and tacts and these things were not in this 14-year-old’s IEP.

And so the teacher was getting really upset. She was an older woman and she looked at me the one day and she goes “that’s not in her IEP.” Not that she didn’t care, but she just felt like we weren’t working on the things that she wanted to work on. So I said to her, “okay, so what do you want to work on?” And she said, “well, in her IEP there is a goal for her to set the table.” Okay, we can work on that because ABA is the science of changing socially significant behavior. Setting the table for a 14-year-old with down syndrome is a more than appropriate goal. So I helped the teacher and I said, “okay, let’s talk about setting the table. Can she do any parts of setting the table?”

(Video) Autism Self Care Skills Teaching Kids Self Care | Feeling Stuck Part 4

And she was a little iffy on that. So I said, “okay, so now we have to decide how we want her to set the table before we just try to teach her.” So do we want her to carry all 4 plates over at a time? Do we want her to gather the 4 plates and the utensils put them on top of the plate and carry it over? And she looked at me like I have no idea. I’m like, okay, well let’s decide and then let’s teach her the steps of setting the table. So everything can be broken down and everything, especially when you’re talking about self-care, leisure activities, vocational tasks and chores are chained procedures that shouldn’t involve a lot of talking. It should involve shaping and chaining and reinforcement so that the child is eventually doing it on their own, which are different techniques than what we teach. What I teach within my book, The Verbal Behavior Approach, for instance, is all really language development except for chapter 11, which talks about potty training and hand-washing. In that chapter, I do talk about a task analysis of writing the steps down to something.

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(Video) Autism Parents And Self-care

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Another example is when we went to teach Lucas how to use knives and forks, so how to cut a chicken tender up. Because I’m his mom, the behavior analyst that was working on this goal came to me and said, “okay, we want to teach Lucas how to cut up his chicken. How do you cut up your chicken? How does his brother cut up chicken and then how does his therapist cut up a chicken?” It was amazing. There were some people who went through the tongs, some people who turn their fork over and cut, and some people who kept their fork positioned differently and started to cut.

So we need to break down the skill into a task analysis. All activities of daily living can be broken down. In my book in chapter 11, I break down the steps of hand-washing for instance. Another pivotal point in my journey with Lucas and trying to teach him some of these skills was when I read this book, Activity Schedules for Children with Autism, by Lynn E. McClannahan and Patricia J. Krantz, which is a very old book. This book was written in 1999 so it’s 2 decades old, but it is a very good book. It basically shows you how to set up activity schedules.

Create activity schedules that show each step in the routine

I also went on to create little books for Lucas. One of the books I show in the video is his morning book. He still uses this book even though he knows the routine. This helps if there’s me versus my husband versus another paid worker here that it is Lucas’s routine, not the way I would do something. So it just basically goes through the steps. Take your medicine, get out your turkey bacon, get your water out, put the bacon in the microwave for 2 minutes and see this is really helpful. Eat, clean up, wipe off the counter, and sweep the floor. He does that. In fact, we had a how to do wash book and when my younger son Spencer was going to college, he’s like, where’s Lucas’s little washing machine book? Because this can help anybody live independently through basic activities.

(Video) Autism, Parenting, and Self-Care

Teaching Self-Care Skills to Kids with Autism - Autism Mom, ABA Help for Professionals and Parents (1)

It can help you teach kids how to make a sandwich or to learn a whole routine that’s part of their activities of daily living. For Lucas, we put whole routines in here. We have a book for bedtime routine and when he gets a shower too. Some of the steps in that book help him floss his teeth, brush his teeth, and shave. All of these techniques really help. You can also do a fitness routine so you can do like 10 minutes on the treadmill, then lifting weights, whatever you want, you can put in little books. This has really helped with Lucas’s independence and he is very familiar as we teach him new routines.

If he gets a job, say as a janitor someday we can break down the tasks and we have in terms of like how to clean the bathroom or how to clean off the counter. It’s just a matter of breaking down the steps for the routine or self-care tasks. If you are going to use any kind of language make sure you use, for each step, five words or less. And make that language consistent. I do show that in the shoe-tying video that is on my YouTube channel as well. I break down the task into five words or less for each step, and then I fade out that language eventually too.

(Video) Autism & Self-Care Skills (Day 27 of 30)

So hopefully you’ve enjoyed this video/article on how to increase self-care, teach life skills for autism, and help make activities of daily living a routine for children with autism with these little books. If you liked it, share it, give me a thumbs up, leave a comment, and if you’d like more information about joining my online courses and community where we can really help you help your child or clients get to the next level and reach their fullest potential, you can attend a free online workshop at marybarbera.com/workshop and I hope to see you right here next week.

Start making a difference for your child or client with autism or signs of autism through free training!

(Video) How BCBA Autism Mom Jennifer N. Helped Her Children with Autism

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What are self help skills for autistic child? ›

Ten Ways to Build Your Child's Independence
  • Strengthen Communication. ...
  • Introduce a Visual Schedule. ...
  • Work on Self-Care Skills. ...
  • Teach Your Child to Ask for a Break. ...
  • Work on Household Chores. ...
  • Practice Money Skills. ...
  • Teach Community Safety Skills. ...
  • Build Leisure Skills.

How does autism affect self-care? ›

Some children and young people with autism are reluctant to engage in self-care tasks because they cannot perceive the purpose of the task. They may not understand why they have to wash their hands after using the toilet, why they need to wear deodorant or why they need to have their hair cut.

What are the self help skills? ›

Self-help skills are abilities that children gradually attain to give them more independence. It includes getting dressed, having a shower and brushing teeth. It's about learning life skills so they can look after themselves without depending on others.

What are self-help skills ABA? ›

Self-help skills are those functional skills or tasks that build independence, self esteem, and increase the likelihood that a child will be successful across multiple environments.

What are 5 strategies used to work with a child with autism? ›

The 5 Best Teaching Strategies for Autism
  • Support Routines and Transitions. Most children with autism are sensitive to abrupt changes in routine and will learn best in routine situations. ...
  • Use Visual Cues. ...
  • Use Special Interests as a Gateway to Teaching Skills. ...
  • Incorporate Sensory Tools. ...
  • Support social skills practice.
5 Nov 2019

What is self-care autism? ›

Self-care involves management and monitoring yourself. Specifically, self-care encompasses one's general well-being, taking prescribed medication, and eating a healthy diet. It also means that one should be able to recognize any symptoms that may need assessing, and to involve a professional if needed.

What is self regulation in autism? ›

Self regulation consists of a set of skills and/or techniques that can help us stay in control of our emotions and behaviors. According to McClelland & Tominey (2014), self regulation includes “conscious control of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors”.

How do you make an autistic child feel loved? ›

Communication and interaction tips for ASD
  1. Be patient. ...
  2. Teach the child how to express anger without being too aggressive. ...
  3. Be persistent but resilient. ...
  4. Always stay positive. ...
  5. Ignore irritating attention-getting behavior. ...
  6. Interact through physical activity. ...
  7. Be affectionate and respectful. ...
  8. Show your love and interest.

How do you get an autistic child to listen? ›

Keep your turns short at first, so your son needs to listen for only a short time before you praise or reward him. As he gets better at listening and waiting his turn, try gradually lengthening your answers (or those of another partner). We like combining this game with the talking stick or listen/talk signs.

How do you get an autistic child to obey you? ›

You can help autistic children cooperate by setting limits, giving effective instructions and offering choices. Changing the environment might make it easier for autistic children to cooperate. Helping autistic children with social interaction and communications can encourage cooperation.

What are the five key steps in teaching a self-care skill? ›

What are Self-Skills?
  • Give them the courage to help themselves. As a parent, it can be difficult to see your child struggling to complete a task. ...
  • Break it into bite-sized bits. ...
  • Identify self-skill problem areas. ...
  • Make learning fun. ...
  • Simplify the every day.

How do you teach self-help skills to special needs children? ›

Give them the tools they need to be successful. Consider bowls that attach to the table, child-sized utensils and small cups with handles and spouts (such as measuring cups) for pouring. Encourage children to try for themselves but provide help and encouragement when needed so they don't get frustrated.

Why is self-care important in ABA? ›

Practicing self-care benefits your physical and mental health, which positively impacts your work. It is important to avoid overwhelming yourself by scheduling a variety of new self-care activities at once.

What are 3 self-care strategies? ›

About Self-Care
  • Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can help boost your mood and improve your health. ...
  • Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated. ...
  • Make sleep a priority. ...
  • Try a relaxing activity. ...
  • Set goals and priorities. ...
  • Practice gratitude. ...
  • Focus on positivity. ...
  • Stay connected.

What are some techniques used in ABA therapy? ›

Read below for a review of 7 effective ABA techniques used with children with autism.
  • Positive and Negative Reinforcement. ...
  • Video Modeling. ...
  • Prompting and Fading. ...
  • Natural Environment Teaching. ...
  • Behavior Chain. ...
  • Generalization. ...
  • Behavior Contracts.
4 Mar 2021

Which method is used to teach autistic children? ›

Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is a method of teaching children with autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. It is based on the premise that appropriate behavior – including speech, academics and life skills – can be taught using scientific principles.

What is the best way to calm an autistic child? ›

What to do during a very loud, very public meltdown
  1. Be empathetic. Empathy means listening and acknowledging their struggle without judgment. ...
  2. Make them feel safe and loved. ...
  3. Eliminate punishments. ...
  4. Focus on your child, not staring bystanders. ...
  5. Break out your sensory toolkit. ...
  6. Teach them coping strategies once they're calm.

What is the most important therapy for autism? ›

The most common developmental therapy for people with ASD is Speech and Language Therapy. Speech and Language Therapy helps to improve the person's understanding and use of speech and language. Some people with ASD communicate verbally.

How do you develop an understanding of self protection autism? ›

Identify what the individual needs to know to be safe. Then find the people and resources to help you teach him or her.
Prioritize Safety.
  1. Respond to “stop” and “go”
  2. Recognize personal space and boundaries.
  3. Learn to swim.
  4. Take no for an answer.
  5. Ask for help.
  6. Understand “mine” and “not mine”
27 Jul 2015

What is self-care parenting? ›

Taking care of your spiritual, physical, psychological, and social needs will help you feel your best so you can be the best parent you can be. It's important to set aside a little bit of time for self-care even when you feel like you don't have a single second to devote to yourself.

How do you take care of yourself with a special needs child? ›

Keep a routine of “me time” such as taking a walk or doing other exercise every day. Treat yourself to your favorite beverage. Settle into a comfy chair and do a few minutes of reading once your kids are in bed. Allow yourself to disconnect from your care-taking routine so that you can rest and recharge.

What are the four self regulation strategies? ›

Four major types of self-regulation strategies are:
  • Self-monitoring (also called self-assessment or self-recording)
  • Self-instruction (also called self-talk)
  • Goal-setting.
  • Self-reinforcement.

How do you help an autistic child regulate their emotions? ›

Six steps to help children with autism manage their emotions
  1. Step 1: Make a visual aid to chart emotions. ...
  2. Step 2: Use pictures or phrases that describe each level. ...
  3. Step 3: Discuss appropriate emotions using examples. ...
  4. Step 4: Explain and demonstrate better coping. ...
  5. Step 5: Play the "what if" game.
12 Dec 2019

How do you set boundaries with autistic children? ›

Where to Get Started Setting Boundaries with Your Autistic Child
  1. Set an Outer Limit. Instead of restricting your child to very few things, set an outer limit. ...
  2. Create Goals for All Members of the Home and Stick with Them. ...
  3. Make a Decision and Stick to It. ...
  4. Focus on What You Have To. ...
  5. Afford the Time for Learning and Growing.
31 Mar 2022

What are the 6 components of self-regulation? ›

Therefore, it is composed of: (a) cognition, (b) motivation, (c) self-concept, (d) affect, (e) volition, (f) metacognition in the form of metacognitive knowledge, and (g) metacognition in the form of metacognitive skills.

What are the three components of self-regulation? ›

Self-Regulated Learning

Three components: cognition, metacognition, and motivation.

What do autistic children love? ›

Some children have all of these things, and others have only one or two. Autistic children and teenagers can be very intense and focused about favourite toys, activities and topics of conversation. For example, younger children might collect things like twigs or balls or want to know the birthday of everyone they meet.

How do you emotionally connect with an autistic child? ›

Building Socio-Emotional Connection for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder
  1. Ask About their Experiences. Just like anyone, start where they are. ...
  2. Provide Concrete Ideas for What to Do. ...
  3. Use Visuals/Multimedia Examples. ...
  4. Connect with Empathy.
3 Dec 2018

Can autistic children feel empathy? ›

Every person living with autism is unique; some may struggle with empathy while others may feel completely overwhelmed by other people's feelings, and then there is everyone in between. It seems that autistic expression of empathy may be atypical.

What should you not do to an autistic child? ›

What not to do with an autistic child
  1. Let them think that autism is bad. Autistic people are not better or worse than neurotypical people, they are just different. ...
  2. Try to “cure” them. ...
  3. Blame every problem on their autism. ...
  4. Punish them for stimming or meltdowns. ...
  5. Pretend they can't hear you talking about them.

What part of the brain is damaged in autism? ›

Four social brain regions, the amygdala, OFC, TPC, and insula, are disrupted in ASD and supporting evidence is summarized; these constitute the proposed common pathogenic mechanism of ASD. Symptomatology is then addressed: widespread ASD symptoms can be explained as direct effects of disrupted social brain regions.

What should you not say to a child with autism? ›

5 things to NEVER say to someone with Autism:
  • “Don't worry, everyone's a little Autistic.” No. ...
  • “You must be like Rainman or something.” Here we go again… not everyone on the spectrum is a genius. ...
  • “Do you take medication for that?” This breaks my heart every time I hear it. ...
  • “I have social issues too. ...
  • “You seem so normal!
13 Dec 2017

Do autistic children need discipline? ›

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) perceive the world differently, their perception of the world can be a scary experience; therefore, by teaching them rules and enforcing discipline, they develop greater understanding of how the world around them works, and can therefore become more adaptive.

Can you spoil an autistic child? ›

"It's unfair to discipline a child with a disability."

So, for example, scolding a child with autism for "stimming" or making noise may well be unreasonable. These are behaviors that are part and parcel of being autistic, and it may be nearly impossible for the child to simply "extinguish" those behaviors.

Do autistic kids follow commands? ›

We do know that children with autism don't always naturally generalise skills. They may only follow instructions the person who normally gives them or they may only follow them in the situation where it normally occurs.

What are the 7 Pillars of self-care? ›

Each method of self-care fits into one of the seven pillars: mental, emotional, physical, environmental, spiritual, recreational, and social. A well-balanced self-care routine involves each of these, so avoid restricting yourself to just one or two pillars.

What are interventions for self-care? ›

Self-care interventions are evidence-based, quality tools that support self-care. They include medicines, counselling, diagnostics and/or digital technologies which can be accessed fully or partially outside of formal health services.

What are the golden rules of self-care? ›

Self-compassion is applying the golden rule to yourself. It is to treat yourself in a way that you treat others. It is to respect, love, protect, and care for yourself each and every day. It is to let go of judgment and criticism and replace it with patience and gratitude.

Why is teaching self care skills to children with special needs important? ›

Self-care skills are important for every child to learn, but they can be especially empowering for children with disabilities. By teaching your child how to care for themselves, you're helping them to gain independence and confidence.

How do you support children in growing self awareness and self acceptance? ›

  1. Here are a couple quick examples of why self-awareness matters:
  2. Here are some strategies you can try to get your learners started:
  3. Encourage kids to use their strengths. ...
  4. Teach skills for confidence. ...
  5. Have kids compliment themselves. ...
  6. Let kids share their passions. ...
  7. Try new things together. ...
  8. Teach about emotions.
1 Sept 2019

How do I teach my child to be a self learner? ›

Set a routine

Encourage your children to prepare a well-planned daily routine comprising study and unstructured play time, as well as time for developing a skill or following a hobby. Help them create a timetable for self-study of various subjects and research.

What is a self-care checklist? ›

Monthly self-care checklist

Spend quality time with your partner. Practice your favorite hobby. Make sure your medication is renewed. Try a new type of exercise. Write down your monthly goals.

What are the 8 areas of self-care? ›

Here are 8 types of self-care and examples to consider:
24 May 2021

What are the best strategies for helping autistic children? ›

10 Easy-to-Implement Behavior Strategies for Children with Autism
  • Teach time management.
  • Set realistic expectations.
  • Reinforce positive behaviors.
  • Give choices for non-preferred activities.
  • Use visuals and social stories.
  • Teach coping skills and calming strategies.
  • Practice transitions.
  • Be consistent each day.

How do you promote self-help skills in children? ›

Ways to Encourage Self-Help Skills in Children
  1. Teach your toddler how to feed themselves.
  2. Teach them how to put their clothes on.
  3. Establish good hygiene habits with your child.
  4. Task them with simple chores.
  5. Keep it fun and simple.
25 Jun 2021

Why is teaching self-care skills to children with special needs important? ›

Self-care skills are important for every child to learn, but they can be especially empowering for children with disabilities. By teaching your child how to care for themselves, you're helping them to gain independence and confidence.

How do you develop a sense of self confidence in a child with disabilities? ›

Here are some ways that a teacher or parent can do to help each learning disability student feel more confident as they enter the classroom this year.
  1. Set routines early and practice. ...
  2. Focus on the positive. ...
  3. Celebrate small victories. ...
  4. Make time for play. ...
  5. Make school relative.

What are some ABA techniques? ›

Read below for a review of 7 effective ABA techniques used with children with autism.
  • Positive and Negative Reinforcement. ...
  • Video Modeling. ...
  • Prompting and Fading. ...
  • Natural Environment Teaching. ...
  • Behavior Chain. ...
  • Generalization. ...
  • Behavior Contracts.
4 Mar 2021

Which therapy is the most effective for autistic children? ›

A notable behavioral treatment for people with ASD is called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA encourages desired behaviors and discourages undesired behaviors to improve a variety of skills.

What are the top three interventions for a child with autism? ›

The different types of evidence-based interventions include: Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) Treatment and education of autistic and related communication handicapped children (TEACCH)

What three things can help a child with self-regulation? ›

How to support the development of self-regulation in children
  • Manage your own stress. ...
  • Keep the end goal in mind. ...
  • Develop realistic expectations. ...
  • Stay calm and model self-regulation. ...
  • Be supportive and encouraging. ...
  • Ensure that children's resource pool for regulation is regularly replenished. ...
  • Reduce unnecessary demands.

What are three activities that help children to self regulate? ›

Along with Simon Says, here are five more of our favourite self-regulation games to get you started:
  • Freeze dance. Have a dance party with a small group of kids or family members and tell everyone that when you stop the music, they must hold very still. ...
  • Traffic lights. ...
  • Musical chairs. ...
  • Orchestra. ...
  • Jenga.
4 Jun 2020

How do you facilitate self-care activities? ›

Physical self-care
  1. Develop a regular sleep routine.
  2. Aim for a healthy diet.
  3. Take lunch breaks.
  4. Go for a walk at lunchtime.
  5. Take your dog for a walk after work.
  6. Use your sick leave.
  7. Get some exercise before/after work regularly.

How do you discipline a defiant autistic child? ›

Discipline strategies for autistic children and teenagers
  1. praise and rewards for appropriate behaviour.
  2. clear rules about behaviour.
  3. positive consequences for appropriate behaviour.
  4. negative consequences for inappropriate behaviour.
  5. everyday and social skills for handling unfamiliar or difficult situations.
18 Nov 2020

How do you help an autistic child control their emotions? ›

You can help autistic children and teenagers calm down from strong emotions using a 5-step process:
  1. Notice the emotion.
  2. Name the emotion.
  3. Pause and say nothing.
  4. Support your child while they calm down.
  5. Address the issue that sparked the emotion.
28 Apr 2022


1. How BCBA Autism Mom Jennifer N. Helped Her Children with Autism
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2. Vlog 10 "Self care" tips for Autism Moms
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3. Empowering Parents: Parent Led Therapy for Children with Autism
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4. Classic Rebroadcast: Teaching Play Skills to Young Children with Autism
(Mary Barbera - Turn Autism Around)
5. Self Care for the Parent of a Child with Special Needs| Tips for Raising a Child with Autism
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6. How to Help Your Toddler Talk! Hot Seat #4 with Elissa M.
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