AARC Tip of the Month | November 2018 | View as Webpage
Building Independence During the Holidays

The snow has begun to fall, and with that comes a season of holidays. Whether your family celebrates Selaviq, Winter Solstice, or tells the stories of St. Nicholas, many families have holiday celebrations during this time of year. The holidays bring about social expectations, changes in routine, and high sensory stimulation, but with it comes the opportunity teach or develop skills for future independence.

Decorating & Holiday Projects
If there is a repetitive project or task that your child is developmentally ready to complete, and if they are familiar with independent work systems , set it up in a work system format, including visuals to show the steps of the task. For example, putting Christmas cards in envelopes and putting stamp/labels on, or rolling silverware in a napkin for setting a table. For more detailed training, check out the e-module on structured work systems from Autism Internet Modules .

Decorate in stages and give children specific tasks for decorating to ease the change in environment. You will need to specifically teach the task at first, and encourage them to complete steps independently as they practice the task. Use visuals or checklists to promote independence if your child is able to complete the steps.

Cooking & Meal Time
Use task analysis to help children be involved in the meal preparation process or setting the table. The AARC developed an E-module on task analysis to get you started! Check out our training modules here .

Teach expected behavior during meal time. You can make a visual of what it looks like, or provide a checklist on a card as a reminder during the meal. You might even take a picture of your child modeling their appropriate behavior!
Set up expectations with a social story before the date of travel, including where you are going and who you are going to see.

Visit the airport or train station prior to travel. The AARC has a “Going through the Airport” social story DVD. You can receive a free copy of the DVD by completing a material request form on our website .

Visual supports, such as this task analysis keychain (pictured), can help your child navigate the process independently. Encourage your child to complete steps on their own. It will build independence and keep their attention occupied.
Provide a choice board of appropriate activities. Have your child help you choose items. This will give them an appropriate choice of items for occupying their time. Practice using this at home before the trip. If your child is ready, you can also use a symbol for “no” or “not available” to teach that skill.

Travel is a great opportunity to teach the passage of time ! You can create a simple visual and attach it to the back of the seat in the car or plane to show the passage of your trip. Let your child set a timer for each step and flip the visual when the timer goes off. Silent, but visual timers are great for this! (visuals and visual timers pictured)
Events & Family Gatherings
The change in routines at holiday time is an opportunity to practice change and increase transition skills. Use a calendar or schedule to talk about changes in the routine and upcoming events. Mark dates off on the calendar as events approach. Depending on your child’s developmental readiness, you can have them use the schedule to put events in order and tell you what is going to happen. This can promote planning skills in the future. Allow your child to do as much of this independently as they are ready for!

Teach turn-taking through games or opening gifts. Use a visual ( here is an example ) and practice before the family event. You can wrap preferred items in boxes and practice this at home. If you celebrate a holiday that requires opening gifts on a specific day, mark this on the calendar and place an icon for gift-opening on the child’s schedule. You can also practice appropriate responses for receiving gifts.

When you have the opportunity for your child to interact with the same children over a stretch of time, use the strategy of peer-mediated instruction to facilitate social interactions.

Explicitly teach appropriate greetings , handshakes, etc. Practice this at home.

Teach your child to communicate preferences and needs , such as no hugs, requesting, or taking a break. If your child uses sign, PECS, or a device to communicate, practice using their mode of communication.

Practice using a quiet space or sensory tools when over-stimulated, and use a social story to explain to your child that they can use their tools when they are in a new space.

Practice self-management and limit talking about a preferred topic. Help find topics that both your child and the family/friends that they will be talking to might both enjoy talking about to build opportunities to practice social skills. Use tokens to limit how much they are going to talk about their preferred topic, or limit that topic to a specific time of day. For example, you can create a visual that says “I will get to talk about ____ at ____.” Another option is to practice talking about someone else’s preferred topic first and then your child’s. A first/then strip can be helpful with this!

Your child will have many opportunities to practice various skills over the holidays, and with a little help from you, they can build these skills towards independence over time!
Books of the Month:
The books of the month are available in the Special Education Service Agency (SESA) Library. Search for items on the   SESA website , or contact the librarian, Anne Freitag, at   afreitag@sesa.org   or 907-334-1301 

Electronic books may be accessed from anywhere in the state. If you've used our ebooks before,   go to the login  page here.  If you haven't, please contact Anne so she can set up a username and password for you.   Learn more about ebooks here .
Activity Schedules for Children with Autism: Teaching independent behavior
By: Lynn E. McClannahan & Patricia J. Krantz
Woodbine House, 1999
ISBN: 093314993X
Description: This book has detailed instructions and many examples to help parents and educators create activity schedules, to go from photographic guides to written schedules, and to monitor progress.
Autism Life Skills: From communication and safety to self-esteem and more--10 essential abilities every child needs and deserves to learn
By: Chantal Sicile-Kira
Perigee, 2008
ISBN: 9780399534614
Description: "This book covers these ten essential life skills: making sense of the world, communication, safety, self-esteem, pursuing interests, self-regulation, independence, social relationships, self-advocacy, earning a living." - Cover.
Building Independence: How to create and use structured work systems
By: Christine E. Reeve, and Susan S. Kabot
Foreword by: Gary Mesibov
AAPC Pub., 2012
ISBN: 9781937473099
Description: "Detailed description of and rationale for setting up structured work systems for individuals with autism spectrum and related disabilities as a means of fostering independence, skill mastery, reduction of behavioral outbursts, etc." - Publisher.
Helping Your Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A step-by-step workbook for families
By: Stephanie B. Lockshin, Jennifer M. Gillis, Raymond G. Romanczyk
New Harbinger Publications, 2005
ISBN: 1572243848
Description: "...parents learn the latest and most effective ASD management techniques for their children, including the use of the family enhancement treatment model designed by the authors—a program that provides step-by-step guidelines for fostering children's abilities and enhancing the health of the whole family.

The book encourages parents to seek a balance between child-centered and family-centered goals. Parents learn how to assess their children's needs and create a personalized intervention plan compatible with the family's resources, goals, and priorities. Worksheets guide parents through the assessment and decision making process.

The family enhancement plan shows how specific family needs can suggest specific child-centered target behaviors. When accomplished, these behavior goals—like the accomplishment of certain chores or the ability to go with the family on an outing or errands—will benefit both child and family." Publisher's website
Incentives for Change: Motivating people with autism spectrum disorders to learn and gain independence
By: Lara Delmolino & Sandra L. Harris
Foreword by: Carol Gray
Woodbine House, 2004
ISBN: 9781890627607
Description: "...explores systems for determining what incentives children and adults with ASD will find rewarding, and ways to use motivation as a tool to affect their learning and behaviour. This easy-to-follow guide explains a variety of motivational methods and systems, including how to: Identify potential incentives; Transition from concrete to intangible incentives; Use reinforcements or rewards to increase motivation; Teach a child to express what he wants; Understand 'establishing operation' and other concepts that affect motivation; Motivate children with ASD to make choices; Implement token systems to enable children to delay reinforcement; Encourage independence and self-management skills..." Amazon description
Tasks Galore: For the real world
By: Laurie Eckenrode, Pat Fennell, and Kathy Hearsey
Tasks Galore, 2004
ISBN: 9781934226018
Description: A tool for preparing older elementary students, adolescents, and adults for independence in the home, school, community, workplace. Categories include domestic skills, vocational skills, independent living skills, job sites and school transition ideas.
Alaska Autism Resource Center | 866-301-7372 | aarc@sesa.org | www.AlaskaARC.org