Topics in ABA: Building Independence

Resource Apr 10, 2020

All parents have goals for their children but finding a clear path to achieving those goals can sometimes be a struggle. Parents of children with special needs, in particular, may wonder what level of independence can be expected of their children, and the answer to this question may be different for every child. Whether the goal is for Bobby to live in his own apartment one day or for Suzy to brush her teeth all by herself, it important to provide your learner with the tools and strategies for a successful outcome.

To see long term success into the future, start shaping independent skills when your child is young. We encourage parents to start small and increase expectations incrementally. If the goal is for your child to brush their teeth on their own, break down the components of brushing teeth into a step-by-step chain. Set clear and concise goals for your learner and increase the demand for independence as they start to demonstrate the previously learned step in the chain.

Here are additional tips to build independence for your little one:

  • Your child is capable of more than you know. Take a step back and let them try to do things on their own; they just might surprise you!
  • Set realistic goals. Break down large skills (e.g. making the bed) into individual steps and teach one step at a time.
  • Slowly increase the demand for independence as your learner develops skills.
    Even if your child is not able to complete a step independently, provide praise and reinforcement for their effort and attempts.
  • Teach by doing. Do not underestimate the power of a live model. Showing your learner exactly what you want them to do can help guide them to independence.
  • Use visual supports when needed. Having a visual aid to show your child the expectation will free up your hands to prompt your learner as needed.
  • While your child may not be able to complete the entire task by themselves, it is still important to celebrate the small victories, while keeping the big goal in your sights.
  • It might take your child extra time to develop the level of independence you are seeking. Stay patient and stay positive. With a little help, guidance and clear expectations, your little one will get there.

When working towards overall independence with your learner, it is important to give credit where credit is due. Your child may have more skills in their toolbox than they are showing at the moment. Take a step back, let them try on their own and then provide minimal help when needed. It is important to give your child the freedom to grow, while showing them that you are there if they need you.

We hope that these suggestions help carve a path towards greater independence for your child. Please stay up to date with all things related to Golden State Autism Centers by following our social media accounts and reading out blog posts. Have a great weekend!