Home Life with an Autistic Child - FamilyEducation

Addressing Issues Central to Home Life with an Autistic Child

Learn how to address important issues at home with your autistic child, including toilet training, chores, behavior, social skills, safety, and more.

Toilet training. This can be difficult for some, easy for others. Some children who have sensory processing issues and poor muscle control may not "feel" when they have the need to urinate, or they may not have the necessary motor control. It can take a long time to toilet-train some people. There are books specifically about toilet training that are good, and Steps to Independence by Bruce Baker and Alan Brightman and One on One by Marilyn Chassman have sections on toilet training as well as many other areas you may wish to address. Steps to Independence explains how to teach functional living skills to children at home, and One on One is the best book I have seen for teaching skills to the less able child with autism.

Chores. Teaching a child to do chores not only gives him independence, but also makes the statement to siblings that everyone contributes to the household. Both books mentioned above have ideas for you to try.

Desensitizing. Some children with sensory processing issues have a terrible time getting their hair cut, their teeth checked by the dentist, wearing a hat, and so on. Teaching a child to get used to an item or sound little by little is helpful. Anyone who has a practical knowledge of applied behavior analysis (ABA) can devise a system. One on One by Marilyn Chassman has a good section about how to teach your child to tolerate stimuli that are difficult for him.

Behavior plans. These are an important part of making life easier at home and teaching a child responsibility for his actions. Again, these are ABA techniques and Steps to Independence by Baker and Brightman has a section on them.

Social skills training. Children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) need to be taught social skills in order to participate in activities with other children.

Safety training. Many children with ASDs do not have any notion of safety and this needs to be taught to keep your child safe. Dangerous Encounters: Avoiding Perilous Situations with Autism by Bill Davis and Wendy Goldband Schunick has some good suggestions for all types of safety issues at home and in the community. The Autism Society of America website (www.autism-society.org) has a useful section entitled "Safety in the Home" that explains how you can make your home a safer environment for your child.

Other issues. For some of the above concerns mentioned and other issues, you may wish to consult Overcoming Autism: Finding the Answers, Strategies, and Hope That Can Transform a Child's Life by Lynn Kern Koegel, Ph.D., and Claire LaZebnik.