Five Ways You Can Teach Your Special Needs Child To Be Independent
Raising a child that has special needs can be, and often is a lot of work. Children with special needs learn differently from typical children. And because of this, we as parents tend to be a bit overprotective in an effort to help ease our child’s burden.
Often times, it will seem easier for us to perform everyday tasks for our children simply because it takes less time (such as when you’re preparing for school in the mornings). But by doing everything for them, we wind up doing more harm than good to our kids.
As a special needs parent, you have to learn to let your child take over the reins so that they can learn to be more self-sufficient. It’s extremely important to start building independence when they are younger so that they will be equipped for adulthood.
Just because a child has a disability does not mean that they can’t learn to do things on their own. You can help your child gain the confidence that he or she needs by trying the following tips.
Allow them to make their own choices
One easy way to start building independence is by giving your child choices. You can apply this to different scenarios throughout the day. Start by offering them choices at mealtimes. I may offer my son a choice between pizza or chicken for dinner, and pancakes or oatmeal for breakfast. As they get older they may be able to tell you exactly what they want during mealtimes.
You can also have them help pick out their own clothes. Ask what color shirt or pants they would like to wear to school. Or even what program they would like to watch on television or what game they’d like to play on the Ipad.
My son has a tendency to choose the same things over and over (whether food, TV shows or games), so I will sometimes take his favorite from the list of choices just to add a little variety here and there.
Allow your child the opportunity to make their own choices as much as possible.
Avoid the urge to do things for them
Trust me, I know that this can be difficult. But if your child is capable of doing certain things themselves such as showering on their own, brushing their teeth, or getting dressed by themselves, then, by all means, let them do it.
You may have to get up a little earlier in the mornings so that you’re not late for work or school – which is what I do, but it is so worth it.
It may seem easier for you to do things for them, but it really doesn’t help them in the long run. They may not master a task in the beginning, but continue to work with them until they’ve perfected it.
Challenge your child
Resist the urge to make everything easy for your child. Give them activities that will provide a challenge for them every now and then. That way they will learn that by working hard and putting forth some effort, they can achieve a goal.
If they struggle with a task, in the beginning, make some minor adjustments so that it fits their skill level. Continue making adjustments as needed in order to help build their independence.
It is so worth it to see the pride in their eyes (and yours) when they master a task.
Work with your child’s instructors
Schedule an IEP meeting with your child’s teacher or sit down with their therapist so that you can talk about ways the two of you can work together to help foster your child’s independence.
I like to incorporate a lot of the things that are covered at school into my son’s activities at home. It helps him to master new skills a lot quicker when he’s putting them into practice both at home and at school.
When you communicate learning strategies openly and freely, it helps to ensure that all parties involved are on the same page.
Learn to let go
The road to independence for children with special needs is often more challenging than it is for their peers. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. We just have to be willing to let go and allow our children to make mistakes so that they can learn from them.
It took me a while to master this one. My son can do so much more than what I often allow him to do. As they say – old habits die hard. I am learning more and more each day to let go and allow him to spread his wings and soar. I know that it can be hard watching your child stumble, but how will they know what they can accomplish if we don’t allow them the opportunity?
The earlier we start to foster independence, the easier it will be for our kids to learn to stand on their own two feet.
How do you encourage your child’s independence?
Eli, The Partying Traveler
Ahh this is some really good advice. My older brother is special needs but he is very independent and can pretty much live life on his own!
Eli, The Partying Traveler
this is some really good advice! my older brother is special needs but he grew up to be very independent and can pretty much live on his own without any assistance!
I think the challenging part would be hard. It’s already difficult to allow your child to grow without feeling the urge to help or make it easier for them, but it definitely is better in the long run for their independence.
This is very true. I am constantly resisting the urge to do things for my son. However, I know that teaching him how to be independent is much better for him.
I admit that both in my family and in my life so far I have had no way of dealing with special children, but I admire how you can teach them their independence … stories like these always inspire.
These are great tips. I have worked as a SPED teacher and I can’t tell you how many times I wish more people understood these types of tools are essential. I wish you and your son a beautiful journey enjoying this crucial stage in his life.
Thank you so much Michelle. It’s hard resisting the urge to step in and help, but we know it’ll be better for him in the long run.
I don’t have children (yet) but I always ask myself what I would do in this situation. I think it’s such a beautifully written article about how we can best serve and help our children.
This is really helpful and heart warming. Thank you for sharing.
Absolutely amazing post. I love to read things like that. You help so many people with your expertise. It is challenging to be a parent, but to be a parent of a child with special need is even more challenging. Any help is welcome.
This is such a great post. Thank you for sharing your insight and experience.
You sound like a great mom and you should be so proud. It must be difficult at times to teach them independence.
I love the tips you have here though I’m a mom of 2 boys and this tip is absolutely is very useful!
This is a great article and you are an amazing mama! I love these tips you shared.
First of all you seem like a lovely person and a really great mom. It’s great that you show him how to be independent.
I will definitely try the tips you ar suggesting, tha k you for sharing this by the way
Great tips here…I think there is something for all parents to take away from this. God bless!
The In-between Mom
Thank you for this post! My 8 year old son has low functioning Autism. I need the constant reminder to allow him to learn to do things for himself. And that he can learn! Blessings to you and your son.
Thank you for reading.