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Skill # 1: Sensory Integration
Understanding the world can be one of the hardest things for children with autism. Sensory processing does not only affect classroom learning. It also extends to relationships, communication, self-awareness, and safety. Not knowing how to make sense of a feeling in the stomach area - whether it means hunger or a full bladder - can be remedied in adulthood by setting a cell phone alarm to ring every 2 hours as a reminder to use the bathroom.
Skill # 2: Communication
Students on all ends of the spectrum have difficulty with communication. This can take the form of not talking at all or having trouble understanding metaphors and implied meanings. Using proper eye contact and speaking at an appropriate speed can be taught. Interacting with peers can help kids learn communication skills.
Skill # 3: Safety
Many children with sensory difficulties have strong issues about safety. They put themselves in unsafe situations not knowing if an object is too hot or too sharp. Ignorance can lead to bullying, which can make students feel unsafe. Schools need to inform all students about special needs and support children by teaching: what abuse is, what to do in unsafe situations, and how to seek help from an adult.
Skill # 4: Self-Esteem
Strong self-esteem is important for a happy, adult life. Confident adults are raised by parents who accept their children and support them to reach their potential. Children can also gain confidence by forming relationships with adults and peers who are not family members.
Skill # 5: Pursuing Interests
Oftentimes students with autism are discouraged from their passions, or obsessions. Encourage the value of doing something "just for fun," and indulge children in their interests. Interests and abilities can be developed into job skills.
Skill # 6: Self-Regulation
Sensory overload can make it difficult to understand feelings and control responses. Affirm the importance of the child's feelings. Guide the child to identify "triggers," recognize sensory overload, and communicate the need for a break. Empower students by allowing them to choose their own breaks and coping strategies.
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Skill # 7: Independence
It may take time to foster independence, so stay patient and positive. Self-care and daily living skills are continually improved and learned. Teach children organization and responsibility by doing chores and sticking to routines.
Skill # 8: Social Relationships
Help children understand the concept of different types of relationships and which conversation topics are appropriate for varying situations. Self-help skills are especially important as children grow older. Teach your child to: ask a store clerk for help, find a plumber, and network to find a job.
Skill # 9: Self-Advocacy
Encourage your child to speak up for himself. Educating children about their diagnosis can be liberating: 1. They know why they feel different, and 2. They can better inform others about how to help them.
Skill # 10: Earning a Living
Supporting oneself financially involves finding, getting, and keeping a job. A difficult task for all, especially those with autism. Encourage children to explore their talents and help them seek opportunities to learn and grow in the community. Sign your kid up for an art class. Get him a job at the local deli. Starting small can add up to a big help.