Household chores are beneficial for all children. They teach independence, skills, competency and the value of work. However, if your child has special needs or autism, they might need a little extra help and encouragement in order to be able to carry out the chores and stay engaged in activities. That’s why it’s important to look into modifying chores for children with special needs.
Communication and Understanding
In order for your child to understand what is being asked of them, it’s important to break down tasks in a simple manner using communication aids. For example, you could use a ‘now and next’ chart with PECS or even a social story. Another great idea is an autism chore chart. This is simple to make on your own, however, there are lots of different versions online. A simple sticker chart can show your child what their chores are and encourage them to carry them out. Think about how many steps and chores your child can handle. Over time, you can develop the chart by adding new chores and rewards that help to motivate them.
You should take into account any sensory issues that your child might have whilst planning their chores. Perhaps they don’t like certain smells or textures. Maybe the noise of a hoover is distressing to them. Taking these things into account beforehand is important.
Starting with Self-Care
A good place to start when introducing chores is self-care - basic life skills. This could be having a bath or shower, washing and brushing hair and brushing teeth. For some children, sensory processing difficulties can make these tasks more difficult. However, there are lots of products that you can explore, which might make these chores a little easier, for example, specialist toothbrushes to waterless shampoo.
Although some chores can be tackled alone, working together is important. If your child sees you carrying out the same chores, it will help to encourage them to learn new skills. Siblings should also be involved. Practice makes perfect, but take your time and don’t rush them. Lots of gentle encouragement and making things fun will help to build their confidence and self-esteem. Perhaps you could ‘feed the bin’ or count how many toys you are putting away.
Here are some examples of simple chores that you might want to consider:
Tidying up – we all need to tidy up after ourselves. Tidying up teaches cause and effect – if you put your toys in the correct place you will always be able to find them!
Feeding a pet – pets can be amazing companions for children with autism. Feeding your pet is something that might require your watchful eye and hand over hand help to avoid under or over feeding.
Washing up – lots of children with special needs like water play. Essentially washing up is very similar! This can be a fun, yet practical chore.
Helping with shopping – you could create your own shopping list beforehand using PECS or photographs, however, some supermarkets like Asda, offer their own shopping list to help engage children with special needs. Some supermarkets also have ‘quiet hours’ if your child has sensory processing difficulties.
A shopping list is a great chore for children with high functioning autism which will allow them to practice literacy, numeracy as well as following directions.
When teaching your child to carry out chores, it’s important to stay positive, upbeat and praise their efforts. Stay clear of time limits for each job (unless they work well with timers and like being timed) and avoid consequences for incomplete chores. Simply stick to the communication aids that work well for your child, adapt them if need by and reteach the steps.
We hope that this helps!
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Swimming is a fantastic inclusive activity to do with children with special needs. It’s a great sensory experience that is good fun and has positive benefits for both physical and mental health. It is also an activity that can be done all year round and doesn’t have to be weather dependent (depending on where you choose to swim!).