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How to Teach Independent Living Skills to Children with Autism

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The moment a parent notices signs of autism or receives the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for their child, it marks the beginning of a journey unlike any other. It begins with a single word: autism. For many parents, this word brings a whirlwind of emotions—confusion, fear, and perhaps even a sense of loss for the dreams they had envisioned for their child. It’s natural to wonder what the future holds, especially when faced with the uncertainty of how autism will impact their child. One of the most pressing concerns that often weighs heavily on a parent’s heart is: Will my child be able to live independently? Let’s explore the path towards nurturing independence in children with autism and ABA therapy.These skills are about daily tasks, and even more importantly they’re about fostering confidence, resilience, and a sense of belonging in the world.

What are Independent Living Skills?

Little Girl Brushing Teeth

Independent living skills are the building blocks of self-sufficiency. They empower individuals to navigate life’s complexities with confidence and grace. From tying shoelaces to managing finances, each skill learned is a step towards greater autonomy and a brighter future.

Examples of Independent Living Skills for Autism

Children with autism can benefit greatly from learning a wide range of independent living skills and self-soothing techniques. These skills encompass various aspects of daily life that can be used at home and play a crucial role in fostering their independence and self-sufficiency. Here are examples of different categories of independent living skills.

Executive Functioning

Executive functioning skills involve the ability to plan, organize, and manage tasks effectively which can also help with anxiety. This includes skills such as planning and organizing tasks, managing time efficiently, and developing problem-solving abilities.

Everyday Living

Everyday living skills are essential for navigating daily routines and responsibilities. These skills encompass tasks like cooking and meal preparation, performing household chores such as cleaning, and managing personal finances effectively.

Personal Care (Hygiene)

Personal care skills include tasks like bathing and grooming, dressing independently, and establishing routines for dental care.

Social Skills

Social skills are essential for building and maintaining relationships and interacting effectively with others. Initiating and maintaining conversations, making friends, and understanding social cues and norms are skills that are so important for daily life.


Communication skills are crucial for expressing thoughts, needs, and preferences effectively. For children with autism, this may involve using Alternative/Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices, expressing themselves clearly, and following instructions accurately.

Safety Skills

Safety skills are necessary for identifying and avoiding potential dangers and responding appropriately in emergencies. This includes skills such as recognizing and avoiding hazards, knowing how to respond in various emergency situations, and understanding concepts like stranger awareness.

Job Skills

Job skills are important for preparing children for future employment opportunities and success in the workplace. These skills may include writing resumes, developing job search strategies, mastering interviewing techniques, and understanding workplace etiquette.


Boy Buttoning Shirt

Self-advocacy skills empower children to assert their needs, seek support when necessary, and make informed decisions about their lives. This includes advocating for oneself, seeking assistance when needed, and making choices based on personal preferences and values.

Imagine the pride in your child’s eyes as they:

  • Plan their day with executive functioning skills.
  • Whip up their favorite meal in the kitchen.
  • Master personal care routines, like brushing teeth independently.
  • Forge friendships and navigate social interactions.
  • Communicate their needs and desires effectively.
  • Recognize potential dangers and stay safe.
  • Explore potential job opportunities and develop workplace skills.
  • Advocate for themselves in various situations.

Sounds like a dream? Yes, this is attainable!

Assessing Current Life Skills in Children with Autism

Take a moment to kick back and observe your child’s daily routines and interactions. Maybe it’s during breakfast when they try to spread jam on toast or when they’re playing with their friends at the park. Notice where they excel, like when they show a knack for organizing their toys or when they confidently ask for what they want. At the same time, keep an eye out for areas where they might need a little extra support, such as struggling to tie their shoelaces or feeling unsure about how to join a group activity.

Trust your instincts as a parent – you know your child best. If something feels like it could use some attention or improvement or your child is showing signs of autistic burnout, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Whether it’s talking to their teacher, consulting with a therapist, or seeking guidance from an autism specialist, there are plenty of ways to get the help you need.

Tips for Teaching Independent Living Skills

Be Their Cheerleader

Celebrate every small victory, and encourage your child to keep trying, even when things get tough.

Make it Visual

Use visual aids like schedules and checklists to help your child understand expectations and routines.

Find Their Voice

Explore alternative communication methods, like AAC, to ensure your child’s thoughts and feelings are always heard.

Break it Down

Break complex tasks into manageable steps, and celebrate progress at each stage.

Lead by Example

Show your child how to tackle challenges by modeling independence in your own life.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Consistent practice is key to mastering new skills. Create opportunities for your child to practice independence in real-life situations.

Seek Support

Don’t hesitate to reach out to professionals for guidance and support along the way.

Supporting Independent Living Skills in Children with Autism

Teaching independent living skills to children with autism is more than just a goal—it’s a journey of love, growth, and empowerment. As parents of children and teens with autism, it’s essential to hold onto hope—to believe in the limitless potential of their child and the possibilities that lie ahead. With love, patience, and a great deal of work, every parent has the power to nurture independence in their child and help them thrive. With the right support and best therapies, it’s a journey worth embarking on. 

At Heartlinks ABA, we’re here to support you every step of the way with our services. If you’re looking for personalized guidance and evidence-based interventions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

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