Autism Spectrum Wots Normal

Providing Resources and Support for Children on The Autism Spectrum


Independent living skills for children on the Autism Spectrum

This article covers independent living skills for children on the Autism Spectrum. By aiding a child on the Autism Spectrum to learn and develop the fundamentals of Life skills they will have to be placed in many uncomfortable situations and be shown that they can survive and will be just fine.

Independent living skills are a collection of various tools that we equip within our children so when they are adults we can send them out into the world armed with the best resources that will allow them to succeed as an adult.

I understand that you may be looking your little 2 year old or 10year old thinking “I can’t see them succeeding or learning anything of use” – that way of thinking if destructive because we have already set them up for failure with a mindset that is not correct.

Independent living skills are taught through consistency and directness and patience.  Below is a list – not exhaustive of – life skills that children should be being taught from a very young age:

•    Tidying the house – teaches respect for items and gives a sense of control over an environment.

•    Organisation skills – simple as teaching a child to write their daily tasks down.

•    Emotional regulation – teaches a child to identify their emotions and self regulate their reactions in order to maintain their self dignity intact.

•    Shopping skills – obvious reasons, eventually your child will need to shop for themselves, so empowering them with this skill is easy and simple to teach.

•    Money skills – you don’t want your child being ripped off by another due to not knowing money amounts, counting, etc.  This too is easy; every time you go out have your child go into a shop and purchase one item for you.  Narrate the change they can expect to get back and go over the receipt of the item so the child understands how to make sense of this part of their Life Skills.

•    Washing clothes – teach the process of washing clothes from the beginning to the end and do it with your child, that way they will not get too overwhelmed with all the steps.

•    Social skills and social stories are another big area (that I will cover in a future article).

Obviously there are many, many more life skills that children need, and they are simple to teach if they are made fun and are taught in a consistent manner.  They be as long as you want to make them (yet be careful to not make the process boring or miserable) or you can make them as simple and quick as possible, as quick as 2 minute lessons!.

At the beginning your child may ‘fight’ the process – especially if they are being asked to chores and labour that they may find not important, yet doing it together with them while making it very short, will keep them engaged long enough to learn a very important lesson for their future.

It is very important that you do not let your child get away with not doing what was required, if this is the case your child will learn a functional behaviour (a negative one) that they will use in other areas when they are asked to do something they do not want to do.

We all have to do things we don’t want to, yet we just have to do it, and so do our children need to learn this important element for their future.

Just don’t be the adult who quits because their (child’s) behaviour may get intense and uncomfortable.  If the child is allowed to succeed at little parts of the learning you can gradually build up on that over time.

Until next time,


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Filed under : Autism Spectrum
By autismspectrum
On May 11, 2012
At 6:47 pm
Comments : 41

41 Comments for this post

Debs Says:

Love your articles, Kerri! X

Mary Kelley Says:

Thanks for the useful information. It is great to get ideas from everyone to help our kids on the spectrum to be successful!

KIm Says:


I believe that I have done most or all of these things. I cannot imagine if I had done nothing, because it is still a very hard challenge and a struggle everyday. My daughter is 15 years old. You just get tired after so many times, so you try to maintain as best as you can.

Velma Says:

Congratulations on your new site! I will be following it to learn more to help my 12 yo aspie boy.

Joan Monger Says:

A very good article, teaching social skills, independent living skills etc, is a long slow process, I have a magnetic board & marker on the fridge/freezer door & have encouraged my 17 year old son to check it every day, for messages, I even leave a message over the weekend, remember to eat some food for lunch, & it works.

Rheanna Hess Says:

This is great advice for everyone. I have three children living with ASD in ages 17 and 3. The importance of starting to learn these skills young cant be stressed enough. Never give up bc as frustrated as you maybe somedays and feel that it is going nowhere, trust me it is. These kids need more time for retaining and processing the information. The day they suddenly complete that simple task on their own makes every struggle worth while. My 17 yr old son with Aspergers just managed to successfully complete doing his own laundry without even asking a single question. We have been working on this for three years. It was one of the proudest moments in both our lives.

Jenn Says:


What you said is right on the mark! We have are sone do his laundry (bring it down, sort it, wash & dry it, and fold it) and cook two nights a week, among other chores around the house. Of course he still complains about it most of the time, because he doesn’t want to do it, but we don’t give in. He needs to learn to do the things most of us don’t like to do that are just a part of life.

Jenn Says:

I forgot to mention our son is 12-1/2 years old, homeschooled, and expecting a little brother any day now. He does do well at most the task he is assigned, but still complains a lot about making dinner. Still working on the planning ahead and time management skills.

Kim White Says:

Thank you, so much I have been looking for this type of article for my 9 yr old son. I believe he can do more than his school seems to think he can. However, I worry about his future as a capable adult. This is great. Look forward to reading more from you.

busymom Says:

Great advice. It’s great for them to see how successful they can be and how much their help is appreciated in the family.

Faye fearon Says:

It’s as if you read my mind today and send me the answer . Thanks so much for all the good advice x

Darlene Hecht Says:

This is very good advice, I’ve already done all these things with my son and he does great with all of them. He is now 15 yrs old and I would love to learn more about the teenage years and young adult age. This I’m finding is a whole new challanging area with hormons rising, him wanting to drive, girls, independence, finding a job and so on. I hope you can help with this age as well.
Thank you for al your doing to help all the parents out there.

Susan Connors Says:

Hi Kerrie

I have three boys with asd one with aspergers. I dont think normal exists :)

Look at a washing machine every make and model is different same as my children. Normal simply does not exist.

I teach my kids all sorts of things from cooking toast, to tidying up, grabbing mail, keeping appointments, shopping and more. Its the litte things that add up to the kids independance.

Seeing they can do something new and the look of pride on their face, the confidence boosters money cant buy that. Yes behaviour does become the most challenging of all – seeing my children develop into the best they can be I would not change that :) Thank you for your posts look forward to more of them.

Its good to know we are not alone as at times it can be very isolating with our children and asd.

Cheena Nyhus Says:

Thank you for this article. My 15 year old daughter who we adopted from Poland five and a half years was just recently diagnosed with Aspergers. Though I am relieved to finally have a name to put to the symptoms she has exhibited, I am also a bit glad that we did not realize exactly what was going on until recently. We have always held the same or similar expectations for her as our other children. She does her own laundry, helps with other chores and keeps up with her own assignments and such. However, we do need to explore shopping and money skills a bit more. Though there are many skills she struggles with, due to her Asperger’s and because she is legally blind, there is also much that she can do.

Hayati Jafar Says:

Tq very much and many congratulations! This is very simple, practical & helpful topic that should be given priority in the education for children with special needs. looking forward to your follow up articles on this area.

Alison P Says:

What a brilliant concept for all children, not just those on the spectrum… I’ll try some of these tomorrow, thanks so much.
Can’t wait for the social skills articles!! :-))

julie tubman Says:

I would have found this very helpful. My son is now nearly 17yrs and in Residential school. My daughter also has her difficulties and parents should be delighted with these essential independent living skills to use as a guide.

Fabiola Escobedo Says:

Hi, I am so thank full for this infomation, I hope you give me more information about Asperguers, I have a son with this condition, he is 16 years old and I need more information about how can I help him to succed

rob Says:

I keep asking for information on ADULTS with aspergers syndrome but
not getting any feedback! can u help? DON’T need information on a
child, thanx.

Ann Crawford Says:

You give good advice! My son is now 20 and no closer to being independent than he was 10 years ago. I have worked with him repeatedly on the skills you mentioned and more, but I’m afraid we still haven’t attained success!

Amanda Says:

This is great common sense advice. Thanks

Anna Says:

Already doing this my child is 14yrs. I have raised 6 children and he has always been the hardest to get to listen to directions. I also have to take away all the fun stuff to get him moving. The one thing I have the hardest time with is when we are at the store, he says an inappropriate thing to the clerk. For example he asked her why her hair was gray, luckily the clerk wasn’t bothered by that. She smiled and said it was just the color of her hair. She did look to young to have gray hair. I tried to apologize and correct my son, he just kept trying to explain why he wanted to know. He trys so hard to be social but always comes out with the wrong thing, another instance in school, he asked the girl if she had started her cycle yet, he came home so upset at himself because the girls were all laughing at him he said and he didn’t realize it was not a good thing to ask. They just completed a health subject that week so he was curious. When I take him to garage sales sometimes he will start talking to a person having the sale instead of looking at the items first. He wants to socialize so bad but when he talks (talks to much) he can say the wrong things not meaning to. Others look at this as funny, he don’t understand that.
He is in a smaller school setting that has wonderful teachers and understand him. The past yr one classmate he got along with left to go to the middle school. Now he insists that he wants to go. Me and hubby know this would be detrimental to him. He had such a hard time in a larger school before attending the one his at. His sister will be going to the smaller school next year with him , the teachers feel this will help him stay longer were he is. If not they are willing to let him switch to high school for a semester to see how he does. If he don’t do well they said they will always have a place for him :) He is very smart and the teachers know he is academically able to get straight A,s but has been stubborn about getting his work done this past yr, my other boys who graduated went threw a similar phase like this, once we get threw it it gets better. He of course has trouble understanding why he has to put things on paper when already understands it. Its to boring he says. Doing things because you have to is a lesson in life. He always wants to put things off till tomorrow, we will ask him if he wants to watch a movie with us (Mom Dad and two siblings) and he will say, can we do it tomorrow each day, has trouble sitting threw movies.
One thing he did in Kindergarten that most kids wont do was drop his clothes off, we didn’t know he had Aspi then. Received a phone call from the principal and he said some girl asked him to so he did. I thought I taught him better then that. Another thing he does now is he likes to peak in other ppls cars, ugh, trying to make him understand its not appropriate. He also tried peaking under a manicans clothes in the dept store when he was 9 or 10, I was in line and didn’t want to lose my place in the long line, I kept whispering at him to get back to me.
I laugh at this now… Its interesting the way he thinks always full of surprises. I am worried about the years to come, teens are already rebellious at a normal level.

Anna Says:

One thing I wanted to add, is that I am worried about the police arresting my son for being a peeping tom, (car windows) how do you explain to the courts your sons behavior and his social skills problem. Will they understand? I am hoping it never comes to that. He is getting so teen like when I try to correct him he just tries to justify how its OK to do it.

Kate Says:

Good basic overview of some necessary skills that parents can teach all of their children. Good luck with your new venture.

Kerri broadstock Says:

It’s so important to teach these skills and tasks when they’re young because I’m finding when teenage hormones and behaviors set in,it’s harder than before to gain co-operation in most new tasks. I’m not sure what is teenage rebellion and what is Asperger’s at times. I had a couple of years where it was smooth sailing which gave me breathing space but also fooled me into thinking the hard tasks were over,silly me.I know we’ll get through it together fine,as we survived primary school,but I’d like to know more about guiding a teenage boy through high school and life and helping parents also. I’ll find out as I go,but some clues would be great. I’m finding your information a great support,thank you. I had set up great routines for him so far,he goes to bed and gets up early,gets ready for school well,he can cook dinner if it’s simple,feed the cat,take out/in bins,check the mail,tidy his room after much discussion but cannot wash his face with a flannel and anti- pimple products,brush his hair or clean teeth without much constant ‘prompting’. he refuses to do homework at all,which is Asperger’s. I wish his life could be easier and it does get better as he gets older,much so,and I worry about his future career options due to poor grades and lack of interaction in many lessons at school.

Rev. Kim Guevara Says:

Any advice for keeping a relatvely high functioning 13 yr boy engaged & on task? He seems to get distracted & wander away to amuse himself or satisfy a whim during chores & school, repeatedly. Also, gets lost deep in thought.

Sharon Says:

oh wow… my son is on the high functioning end of the spectrum, officially PDD-NOS with ADHD but in gifted/talented at school, in sixth grade now. Trying to get him to see what is the point of cleaning up or learning to wash clothes is near impossible… much less the worth of organization… it just doesn’t compute. At least I’m not the only one struggling with this! Thank you for this affirming post.

Mirabeeth Says:

Thank you for these bits of information. I do a lot of this with my own son, and it is nice to have support even if it is not from your immediate family.

Knowledge truely is power especially when your little guy (9) does not extrapolate information or pick up social cues. I need to make sure to mindfully teach him because he is so verbal and above average in other ways that he can get into serious trouble for his blunt verbiage and emotional meltdowns.

Just thank you.

Val McLean Says:

thank you Kerri….very well said. I just want to add…don’t ever give up hoping that our children can succeed. I believe it’s better to set goals for their independence high rather than low, as long as they are safe and have a healthy self esteem.

Vicki Braddy Says:

I enjoyed reading your article Kerri. I have done all these things from an early age with my son who is 17 and has Aspies.
I diagnosed him at around 14 but only got an “official” diagnosis when he was 16. I didn’t know his father was Aspies until I worked out what it was that made our son different and recognized why his father and I had so much trouble understanding each other, we separated when our son was 6. I had never heard of Aspergers until 3 years ago.
Finding the energy to be consistent is my problem. Now he is 17 he is not as easy to manage or as co-operative as he was in his earlier years.
He spent sometime identifying with Russia and communism. Now he has switched his views to Nazism.
I have always been a politically aware person myself and have encouraged him to think globally. But I am now dealing with a view I find intolerable as an old “hippy”
We live in Darwin, many indigenous people and a great mixture of races here from Greece, China and our closer Asian cousins.
I taught him from an early age that racism is not ok.
I now have to deal with his extreme views on race issues and womens rights.
I am told daily I am “liberal hippy scum” and as a woman I cannot possibly own my home, it is his as he is the male of the house.
He believes races cannot mix and live in peace. He worships Hitler and “seig hails” regularly. He has told me many times he is trying to educate me and that I must eventually agree with him as he has the only valid view of the world. His views are making it very difficult to live in peace in our home!
I was told by his shrink not to take too much notice or argue with him over this situation. I have been hoping for a shift in his thinking. I am not sure how to move him forward at this stage.
Any clues?
Thanks, Vicki.

Debbie Levinson Says:

Wow! That was an amazing article and to the point. I love it! I have a 16 1/2-year-old child with Asperger’s and ADHD and a math disorder. We adopted her from Romania when she was 14 months old from the worst orphanage in Bucharest that you have probably seen on TV. She only got contaminated watered-down sugar water bottles and was very malnourished, had ear infections, jet vomiting, etc. She has come a long way since then, but the schools in our area still do not want to teach social skills classes and have fought me through the years acting like she is a spoiled child, and that is not the case at all. She has always had a very high level in reading and the doctor said that is what has kept her going, as she reads and reads and reads. We did not find out until 2009 that she had Asperger’s and it has been very difficult to understand how to help her. I wish I would have had your article a long time ago. You make it sound so easy doing it step by step, which is really what I have done with her all her life with other things. She has had developmental delays and that is what has been so hard. I kept her out of sports because she was behind for her grade level and now she cannot join in on anything because the kids are so competitive and so far ahead, she can never catch up enough to be involved. It is very sad. I feel bad for her. She doesn’t have any friends, one or two acquaintances that we see once every three to six months. I wish there were more resources around my area and more teachers willing to help. I had to get an advocate this year at $100 an hour to help me deal with the school. We are making some progress, but it is slow, and my daughter is in 10th Grade and it is almost the end of the school year now, so it has been a struggle. I do not have the money to keep doing this. Anyway, thank you for the info!

Debbie Levinson

Peggy Craighead Says:

Good short read. Grandma and mom have no clue how to help 19-year-old that went undiagnosed for 18 years, and was labeled “retarted, challenged, developmentally disabled” etc so he went from K-12 in a special ed class with much lower-functioning than himself instead of being put in regular classes with the help of an aide or tutor. “We need all the information we can get our hands on, feeling so powerless as how to help him, knowing he is capable of doing much more. He does do a couple of the things mentioned in the article but he has no concept of “giving”, “thinking of others” and the only real “chore” he is expected to do is dump the garbage. I hope this is just the beginning of acquiring much needed information to help this awesome “kid”. He is 19 now, and does not do a lot of “socializing” because people don’t understand and don’t know how to talk to him. At present, after high school, he is in a “transition” place but I do not see a whole of difference in his “living skills”. Thank you again-”Grandma”

Almarie Prins Says:

Thank you for these prctical hints. These skills seem to come so easy for a “normal” child but are very difficult to teach to an ASD and take patience and understanding. I am a high school teacher and it is very difficult to teach this to a child where they have been neglected by the parent.

Rae Says:

How true! the information here is great. My son is now nearly 18 years old and I have done this with him, it is now paying off big time! he is better than most “normal” teens! His cooking is wonderful, he uses smell and taste, for him he sees cooking in more ways than me, with things like being able to identify background flavors. He knows how to clean things and why you need to. He still has the reminders but over all he is getting there. Well done for a great blog!This work now saves time in the future.

lorna armstrong Says:

I found this helpful clear and concise .

Caroline Says:

Thankyou. You show insight and understanding. This is how I have helped my non verbal 4 year old become a mainstreamed high achieving leader amongst his peers. Each week we choose a new goal to direct our energies to. He is now in year 8 and we are looking forward to may 22nd he will be at a special evening at school being presented with his school leadership badge among with 11 of his mainstream peers .
I will eagerly await your next article.
Once again thank you it’s great to read such a positive blog.

Nan Says:

Ideas for older children who were diagnosed later and are now unmotivated and unwilling to help themselves or others with basic life skills? Schools etc. Thank you.

Kerri Stocks Says:

Hi everyone and thankyou for the great stories you have shared. I will only touch briefly on some areas mentioned above and then take time begin to write articles in relation to them;

@ Rob – When you ask for adult articles, can you explain to me what areas you are wanting to know about. You see whether we (ASD individuals) are children or adults the same principals go. Regardless of our ages, we still need the step by step process and the consistency when it comes to us learning. However, when we finally adults, it (lessons,etc) can become harder because we then have our own free will and we have been allowed to develop functional behaviours that have served us well up until now – so when it comes to older ASD individuals the struggles can lie in having to replace the unwanted behaviours with more positives behaviours, and this can only occur when the new behaviour has a ‘currency’ for the individual, an enjoyable factor to get them engaged.

@ Nan, Again the ‘unwillingness and lack of motivation’ has been a learnt response/behaviour to many elements around the individual with ASD. They need to be replaced by more positive behaviours and responses and these can only be taught by changing the responses the child/teen/adult is currently getting (in relation to the expectations others have) – and again it is a consistency thing, you see to alter a habit, behaviour or anything (and this is regardless of label etc – think about how hard it can be to change a habit for yourself ;) ) – it causes a distress factor within the person and so they may ‘up their responses’ to these changed – make your life uncomfortable for a while – but this simply means you have their attention, which is very good, and it is very important to not quit, ‘battles of the wills’ and it is up to the adult in charge to remain consistent and not falter if the ASD individual begins to ‘get louder’ or react negatively. You simply validate their feelings (“You know, I get how difficult this is for you”) – and then you give them the why factor (“This will help you in the long run for your great future”) – and then you leave it at that. When they grizzle again, you repeat that same speech again and so on, up until such times as it eventually clicks and it will (even though it may not feel that way).

Take Care

Jenny Says:

Thank you so much.It’s so useful for me ,a mum with a 10-years son.

Jennifer Says:

Thankful for your advice! I’m having trouble finding information for teens with Aspergers!
My son is high functioning but still needs social help.
Look forward to more helpful info!!

Tracy Says:

Thanks so much for all your work to help families with kids with ASD, etc., and adults as well. As a nurse in the community, I run into so many adults that I can tell are somewhere along the autism spectrum and have never been diagnosed or treated for that matter. It is so frustrating and sad to see how they have tried to adapt to life in their own way (which is usually not well). Most have so many problems and are so advanced in age (60-90 years old) that by the time I see them, it is too difficult to introduce new concepts or ideas to them. As a nurse trying to care for their physical needs, their emotional and social problems often become a barrier for us.
I am also a mother of two special needs kids. My son has ASD, or highly functioning Autism and my daughter is Bipolar/ ADHD/ OCD. It has been a challenge to say the least for me as I became a single mom when they were babies. When I realized my childrens’ diagnoses, I also realized their dad has ASD, and shared this with him. He agrees, but refuses to seek help. What is sad is that I can see him being one of these people I have had to deal with as a nurse in the community that never got help for his ASD.

So to all the parents out there- just the fact that you are on this website and TRYING is what counts!!! You are educating your child and your family, and probably the community around you by just being aware and working to help them. That in and of itself is what will help them as adults!


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