As parents, we all have a dream.
We want our children to be independent and self- reliant.
After all how long are we going to be around?
Self- reliance is the ability to do things and make decisions by yourself, without needing other people to help you.
People learned self- reliance because they had to.
– Collins English Dictionary
How does this work out practically for autistic individuals?
Here are a few pointers to help you think about how you can achieve self -reliance in your child.
1. From resistance to readiness
You may see a lot of resistance on your child’s part.
Resistance to join new activities, resistance to connect with you / other children or resistance to learning etc.
This one technique that makes it easy for your child to become ready and less resistant is known as Regulation.
We can build regulation by following a simple procedure.
The simplest example I can give is of ball play.
Assign roles- both you and your child have the same role (thrower and catcher)
Establish a pattern- by throwing the ball back and forth a few times so that the child knows exactly what to do
Just noticeable differences- can your child handle different kinds of balls as you continue to play? Can you change your position based on which your child changes position?
Challenge – What happens if you both start playing with 2 balls at a time?
When you work on these kinds of activities it enhances neural connectivity bringing about ‘regulation.’
You can try ‘regulation’ with many simple household activities such as- putting crockery and cutlery away, picking up toys, simple cooking, folding clothes etc.
How is Regulation connected to independence?
Your child needs to get comfortable with uncertain situations. Once the resistance goes down, s/he will want to engage in complex activities.
Regulation is the first step to self reliance.
It’s a wonderful technique, taught by Dr Steve Gutstein, (RDI Connect)
2. Reduce instructions and prompts
Try to use a declarative statement rather than an instruction.
Keep your language natural.
For example: It’s tea time, I need to fix myself a cup. You can fix yourself a drink too.
In this scenario either your child can help you make tea and have a cup himself or he can choose to make another drink and you can help him fix his drink.
While implementing this framework, don’t instruct directly. Give time to think.
Let your child problem solve.
What if the sugar jar doesn’t have enough sugar.
Help your child problem solve. Can you encourage him to find another packet of sugar from the supply drawer?
Earlier in my career I was encouraged to use the Zero second delay prompt. But it led to frustration in my students.
Give time. Over a period of time your child will speed up and make decisions on his own.
How are reduced instructions and prompts connected to independence or self- reliance?
They both are essential to independence. Other wise your child will be dependent on you to solve every problem.
3. Exposure to a variety of activities
The biggest gift you can do for your child is to not limit her to a few preferred activities.
Besides, if you don’t expose your child to a variety of activities, how will you know what your child enjoys?
Expose your child to the arts, creativity, music, books, collaborative art projects.
Don’t limit their lives.
Here’s an idea to help you plan a number of activities for your child.
Create these jars so that you never run out of ideas.
You can have categories such as outdoor activities, kitchen activities, art and craft, board games.
Be creative and come up with your own activities.
Keep adding activities to your jars.
How is exposure connected to independence?
Engaging in a variety of activities leads to a rich life. Don’t limit your child. Be creative.
4. Let your child make mistakes
As parents, we hate it when our children make mistakes.
I know because it used to upset me tremendously when Mohit made mistakes.
Correct and quick was a formula stuck in my head.
With RDI, I was able to let it go and push it out of my life.
Who has ever learned without making a mistake?
Mistakes lead to reflection and hence learning.
So when you watch your child struggling or making mistakes, be there for her.
Support her. Make a mistake yourself and voice out aloud, “oh I goofed up. But that’s okay.”
This way your child will also be comfortable with making mistakes.
By seeking and blundering we learn
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
How is making mistakes connected to self- reliance?
If we focus on perfection in our children, it will lead to high anxiety in them.
Also, they need to learn from mistakes. Only you, as a parent can build this up.
This way they will not limit themselves.
5. Keep in mind your child’s learning style
I had a very interesting consultation meeting today.
This wonderful family was working on a ‘guessing game’ with their 10 year old son.
Their first video was based on doing this as an auditory game.
For example- I am green in color, I’m a vegetable. What am I?
The idea was for the child to come up with his own options.
The first day they played this game, it was really slow moving and he seemed disinterested.
The second video they sent me, he was attentive and came up with varied answers.
Guess what the change was?
The second time, they wrote the clues in addition to just saying them aloud.
We saw active engagement, great responses, eagerness, curiosity.
The child responded much faster too.
Find your child’s learning style.
This could be your key.
How is teaching in a way your child learns connected to self- reliance?
Teaching in a way your child learns will create intrinsic motivation.
Once your child is intrinsically motivated, she can achieve much more.
It’s important to keep these 5 pointers in mind.
If we don’t work to support our own children, who else will?
As a parent, you are your child’s biggest advocate.
As the definition of self reliance states:
Self reliance is the ability to do things and make decisions by yourself, without needing other people to help you.
People learned self reliance because they had to.
Work on building self- reliance in your child- Today.