Enhancing Lives
        Individuals - Families - Communities
        Confidence - Competence - Capacity
Let's Talk Autism
Just Pick One Thing!
During the past month we have all experienced a lot of changes to our lives. In some ways it feels like our lives have been turned upside down, and we are all doing our best to adjust and figure out how to manage. One big change for many of us is that we have more time with our children and family than we typically do, without the distraction of busy schedules and outside demands. While this can definitely bring some challenges, there are also positives to our current situation. 

Dr. Peter Gerhardt, a nationally recognized expert on youth and young adults with ASD, talks about the importance of learning essential life skills for individuals with ASD.  What are essential life skills? A few examples are getting ourselves up in the morning, getting dressed, making our breakfast, getting ourselves to work on time…or in our current situation having the ability to figure out how to adjust our work to the current situation.  Essential life skills are the things we do every day and they are critical…critical to a person with ASD living the quality of life that they and their family desire.   

One positive way we can capitalize on the extra time we have with our children is to spend some time working on essential life skills. Right now, it may be easier to take a few extra minutes in your day to   help your child work on dressing more independently, making a simple meal, or helping with a chore around the house.  You don’t have to start five new things…. just pick one thing .  One thing you’ve thought, “It would be great if my child could _________” , and just focus on that one thing.
Tip of the Week
Start by identifying the skill you would like to focus on during this additional time at home with your child. Once you have identified the skill, think about a few things:

1.    What is my child’s current skill in this area?
2.    What is my long term goal for him/her in this skill?
3.    How can I break the long term goal into smaller steps, based on my child’s current skill level and what is expected for a child his/her age?

As an example, let’s say the skill you would like to see is for your child to be independent in making a meal.  Your child is 13 years old, and his current skill level is that he can get his favorite food (eg: chicken nuggets) out of the freezer and open the bag. Based on your child’s age, it is reasonable to expect him to be able to make chicken nuggets on his own (remember- we also have to consider our child’s age. We wouldn’t expect a four-year old with or without ASD to make chicken nuggets on his own). Thinking about your child’s current skill of being able to get the bag out of the freezer and open it, what are logical next steps? Let’s break it down:
  • Get a microwave safe plate out of the cabinet
  •   Put a reasonable number of chicken nuggets on the plate
  •   Put the plate in the microwave
  •   Set the microwave for the correct time (using a visual support if needed to know which buttons to push on the microwave)
  •   When the microwave goes off, check to see if the chicken nuggets are warm enough
  •   Once the chicken nuggets are done, safely remove the plate from the microwave (using a hot pad if needed)
  •  Get ketchup out of the refrigerator (if your child likes ketchup)
  •  Put reasonable amount of ketchup on the plate  Return the ketchup to the refrigerator      
  • Sit down and enjoy the nuggets

Obviously we would not expect a child to master all these steps at one time, but when we break a skill down we can begin working towards independence with each of the component skills that lead to our ultimate goal. Our child can assist us, or we can assist him/her with the level of support needed, to accomplish each part of the overall skill. To fade yourself and increase your child’s independence, you can even take a picture of each step on your phone and work with your child to follow the steps from the pictures (or from written instructions if your child reads). 

As we’ve mentioned in our previous newsletters, life is full of natural learning opportunities. Think of one thing you would like to work on during this time at home and use the following questions and additional resources to help guide your process.

Questions to consider:

1.    What is a skill that my child can learn to help him/her become more independent?
2.  What is my child’s current skill in this area?
3.  When I break this skill down, what is a reasonable next step to expect from my child?
4. What time of day is best for my child to practice this skill?   
5. What support will my child need from me to be successful?

Below are 10 essential life skills that every kid needs to learn, from Dr. Peter Gerhardt. As a start, just pick one area that you want to work on, and one skill in that area. Any small step forward is progress. 
Remember Progress, not Perfection.

1.      Toileting (Bowel and Urine) – independent use of bathroom when necessary, including locking the door, wiping the seat, wiping self when necessary, washing hands, exiting bathroom, and return to “location”

2.         Dressing – closing doors for privacy, independent selection of appropriate clothes, donning clothes in correct order and orientation, check appearance before opening and exiting area

3.        Independent Eating – correctly use all appropriate utensils (fork, spoon, knife) to eat a variety of foods nearly and at a culturally accepted pace

4.       Bathing and Personal Hygiene – independently bathe/shower and complete relevant hygiene skills – tooth brushing, grooming, etc

5.       Household Participation – independent completion of a variety of household chores

6.       Able to Learn/Work in a Group – acquire new skills in groups of 2, 3, or more at similar rate to learning via 1:1 instruction

7.       Self-Management – ability to identify one’s own behavior as either appropriate or inappropriate and deliver potential reinforcement in absence of supervision

8.       Problem Solving/Variable Responding  - ability to offer more than one potential problem when presented with a relevant problem or challenge

9.       Maintain Physical Safety

10.     Communication – make one’s wants and needs known to naive listeners across multiple environments
What Works Webinar Series

There is still time to register for our last webinar in our What Works Webinar Series .
Our Challenging Behavior webinar is scheduled for April 30, 2020. The webinar is one hour from 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm followed by 30 minutes for questions and answers.
For details and to register visit our website at https://okautism.org/Training-Events
Resources F or Teaching Life Skills
Understanding Transition to Adulthood Using Reverse Engineering – Peter Gerhardt, Ed.D. and Angela Rodriguez, MA, BCBA Presentation on April 4, 2019 at the Yale Child Study Center -Copy of Slides -- https://medicine.yale.edu/lab/chawarska/autismcenter/conference/Gerhardt_356058_284_44605_v1.pdf

Video of Presentation – https://medicine.yale.edu/lab/chawarska/autismcenter/conference/2019/  (the video player is located toward the bottom of the page)

Fathering Autism: Follow this families vlog for examples of how they incorporate teaching life skills into their day with their teenage daughter with significant ASD
Please reach out to us if you need help connecting with a resource or if you need technical assistance managing a situation related to your family member with ASD. 
We are continuing to add information and resources to our COVID-19 section of our website. 
All OAN staff are working remotely due to restrictions in place at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center due to COVID-19.  

The best way to reach us is by email at okautism@ouhsc.edu

You can also check out additional resources and ideas for Autism Awareness Month on our website at https://okautism.org/Information-Referral/Autism-Awareness

  Stay safe and healthy!
The Oklahoma Autism Network Team