How are you fostering independence in your adult child with special needs?
Fostering independence for your adult with special needs is easier said than done. Quite simply, in many cases, it is much easier – not to mention faster – to do something FOR your child, rather than allow them the time and space to learn and practice the skill on their own. While they may meet milestones at atypical times, individuals with special needs have the capacity to grow and change throughout their lifetimes. It is important to create opportunities for fostering this growth and independence whenever possible.
Whether practicing daily living skills or seeking activities that are compatible with your child’s temperament, fostering independence is a key underlying skill – and one that it’s never too late to teach. While it may be awhile from now, it is likely your child will outlive you, which makes it all the more important for him or her to increase his or her independence.
Create opportunities to practice these skills. Start with creating a routine at a time of day when your child is at his or her best. This may be a morning/getting ready routine, or perhaps preparing a simple meal. Whatever you pick, try to choose something that happens frequently (daily or weekly, not monthly or yearly), and commit to practicing every time.
Celebrate Small Wins
If your chosen routine has 20 steps, celebrate the independent completion of even one of those steps. Build on these small wins and focus on the successes. With patience, increasing independence will come.
Learn from Failure
While you shouldn’t dwell on those 19 steps that didn’t go so well, you shouldn’t entirely ignore them either. Do they need to be broken down into smaller chunks? Do you need to modify the environment? Consider how your child failed so you can learn from each failure.
Try, Try Again
And then get up and do it again tomorrow – or next week – whatever the situation requires. It may seem like an endless process when you first begin, but day after day, week after week, the routine will become streamlined and your child will have gained a new skill to support his or her independence.
Resources to support you in fostering independence for your adult with special needs
Take full advantage of programs through the federal, state and local governments that support individuals with living skills, employment, and participating in their community. These programs vary greatly, but if you learn that something is available in another part of the state or country, then start asking for it where you live. Only through advocacy will these programs begin to meet the increasing needs of the special needs community.
Many hospitals, medical groups, universities and non-profit organizations host groups that support parents and guardians in “letting go.” Additionally, these groups may host job fairs, run resource centers, or offer other supports to help you foster the independence of your adult child with special needs.
With in-person activities still limited in much of the country, online resources are extra helpful. But even in times without health restrictions, online resources are a boon to those living in more remote areas, or those with rare diagnoses seeking kinship and ideas. Two recommended podcasts are the Lomah podcast and the Autism Grown Up podcast.
Kokua Kona seeks to create an integrated, intentional community in Kailua Kona, Hawaii, based on shared home equity models created by Living Unlimited. Connect with us to learn more.