The most common reaction to someone with special needs, be it a child or an adult, is pity. That’s mostly because we automatically associate special needs with a level of dependence on something or someone. True, a certain amount of dependence is inevitable. But, it’s important to equip an individual with special needs, with the skills to be independent. Self-reliance is crucial to well-being and development. And, as with anything else, independence begins at home.
Parents, in an effort to keep their children comfortable and well-taken care of, tend to overindulge them. It’s almost second nature to being a parent. But, independence is an acquired trait and parents have a huge role in helping their children develop it.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while equipping your special needs child to be independent:
Start early: You don’t have to wait for your child to ‘grow up’ to begin the process of independence. Begin early and keep it slow. Independence needs a little ‘getting used to’ and it helps when the child is introduced to it at a young age.
Create a routine and stick to it: Children learn best with an established routine. A schedule provides a reliable framework to fall back on. Like any other habit, independence comes with practice and regularity.
Adapt to changing needs: Change and improvise the routine as the child ages. Accommodate the requirements of your child at school, an intervention groups or an activities class too. Change when you realise that a particular method isn’t effective.
Let him choose: Give your child the freedom to make choices from a very young age. Let him decide what makes him happy and what he wants to do with his life. This includes the possibility of college and employment. Let him decide for himself.
Everyday activities: Teach your child to do some basic everyday activities independently. Taking care of the laundry, washing the dishes, having a bath by bath by herself, getting dressed, and so on are some of the things you could start letting your child do by herself from an appropriate age.
Life skills: Cooking, planning and organising, monetary lessons, hygiene and cleanliness, socialising – skills like these go a long way in making your special little one independent. You know your kid best; decide the best time to incorporate each of these skills into his routine.
Encourage her to make friends: A life outside home helps fuel independence. A healthy circle of friends gives way to a social life that fosters independence and freedom. Friendship, at least in the early stages, requires certain social skills. Make that a part of your child's routine too.
Most importantly, remember to take it one step at a time!
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