Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face unique challenges as they grow up, but they can thrive when they are equipped with the appropriate life skills. If your child has autism, you might feel overwhelmed and unsure how to prepare them for life. Here are some key areas to consider when raising a well-rounded, happy, healthy kid with autism – and how robot-assisted instruction can help.
Keep in mind every child’s needs will be different; this is just a jumping-off point for parents, teachers, and anyone who works closely with children with autism.
Key Areas for Development in Children with ASD
Every kid needs to learn these skills, but everyone learns at a different pace and benefits from different support. Children with autism often learn life skills best when they are explicitly taught about them.
As you go through this list, note anything your child struggles with. Also, note anything your child seems to excel at – that matters too! Identifying what your child already has a knack for will help you play to their strengths as they work on their goals.
Executive functioning skills are essential for planning, managing, and organizing one’s day. People with strong executive functioning skills often don’t even think about their behaviors consciously. But make no mistake – these are skills nobody is born with. They take time to develop, and there are many strategies people use to maintain them and function effectively in society. Here are a few examples:
· Creating to-do lists (whether physical or mental)
· Planning for chores and errands
· Breaking down big tasks into smaller sub-tasks
· Prioritizing tasks
Practical Life Skills
Experts recommend teaching your child about these tasks by including them in your daily routine to encourage independence. Your child can learn at their own pace and develop comfort with these activities over time. As with many skills, early intervention and integration can be extremely helpful. Though, if your child has not yet had this experience, now is a better time to start than later!
This is an area where a robot can offer valuable support. Lessons with a robot can help your child memorize the steps of complicated tasks. To develop comfort, a child might engage in a conversation with the robot, along with the support of a facilitator, post-chore or post-task completion to reflect and review how it went.
Crucial life skills include:
· Finding information (internet, books, newspapers, etc.)
· Managing money (budgeting, bank accounts, credit cards, using paper money)
· Traveling (using Google Maps, public transportation, planning a trip – whether it’s a vacation or a trip to the dentist)
· Clothing (laundry, organizing, dressing)
· Homecare (taking out the trash, cleaning the house, doing dishes)
· Cooking· Shopping
If your child is still young, it might seem far-fetched to start teaching them job skills. But kids start to pick up crucial job skills early in life, even if they don’t realize it. Engaging your child in formal settings like volunteering, church activities, museums, or Boy or Girl Scouts can give them experience with interpersonal communication, following directions, completing tasks, and managing time. Here are some skills within this area that children can develop prior to working in a job setting:
· Recognizing their skills, talents, and interests
· Finding job types that spark their interest
· Creating a resume
· Understanding the social skills involved in being a good employee
· Looking for a job
Personal safety includes teaching your child how to handle stressful and dangerous situations. Some kids with autism can have trouble speaking under pressure or in stressful situations.
Consider equipping them with a card or piece of paper with critical information and a few statements on it to help them when they have trouble speaking up. Have them practice with a robot, turning it into a game or a roleplay. Learning how to ask for help or express discomfort to a robot in a controlled setting can help make it easier for them to do so when it matters.
Robots can be beneficial for developing social skills. As kids reach the age where social play becomes more important for social development, many children with autism struggle to keep up. Robots have been used to help kids with autism learn how to share, take turns, and build other crucial social skills.
Crucial social skills include:
· Collaborating in groups
· Talking on the phone or communicating via text message
· Making and maintaining friendships
· Understanding the difference between private and public behavior
These skills are often overlooked, but they’re vital for kids with special needs to learn:
· Knowing how and when to ask questions
· Identifying people they can safely approach for help
· Saying no· Effectively communicating boundaries
Action Items for Parents
Identify Your Child’s Strengths and ChallengesWhat comes easily for your child?
Find ways to expand on that and strengthen their self-confidence!
What social skills can they improve on? See if they can use their strengths to develop their areas for growth! Robot-assisted instruction (RAI) from MOVIA Robotics can help with this as there are many lessons in their proprietary curriculum that focus on social emotional learning, learning readiness, and activities for daily living topics!
Children can become eligible for additional support and services (such as obtaining an individualized education program, or IEP) through their local school district as early as age 3. This often includes speech and language therapy, behavioral therapy, or sensory-specific learning. Your child might qualify for an aide or support in a social skills group in the classroom.
Physical activity is essential for everybody, but especially children with autism. Exercise and play can improve overall fitness, coordination, and body awareness. It can also help your child get the stimulation they need, which can help manage self-stimulating behaviors and prevent these behaviors from becoming disruptive. Play is also a meaningful way that children learn to relate to each other.
Don’t Deny Their Emotional Needs – Address Them
Kids with autism might feel left behind, left out, or bullied. They may struggle to relate to neurotypical people, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be included. It’s natural for a child to feel sadness or anger if they feel they have been ostracized by or isolated from others. If your child is showing signs of depression, medical and mental health professionals can offer the appropriate support strategies for your child to navigate their experiences.
How Robots Can Help
Robot-assisted instruction can help your child thrive, particularly when learning important lessons or developing social skills. Research has found that robots can help kids with autism feel more comfortable in social situations. Robots can serve as training wheels for future relationships rather than a replacement for relationships with other people.
Every parent’s goal is for their child to grow up happy, healthy, and to live a fulfilling life – and parents of children with ASD are no exception. By taking measures to address your child’s needs and giving them well-rounded developmental experiences, you can set up your child for success along their unique path.
To learn more about MOVIA’s unique approach to supporting children with autism, visit our website or contact us at email@example.com. We’d love to get in touch and discuss how we can help teachers, parents, and clinicians who work with children with autism.