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While many of us learn to dislike our chores or household duties, we all like the feeling that we can help! Household chores can be loads of fun especially for younger children who actively look for ways to participate. For those on the spectrum, household chores can be a way to improve or create self-esteem, and ultimately lead towards more independence in the future. They can also be a great activity to share with grandparents or family and friends who might not necessarily know how to interact with a child who is on the spectrum. Some chores may eventually be tackled on their own, and some may always need to be a shared experience with a parent or caregiver. Either way your child will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment at being able to contribute, and enjoy some time with you!
Below are some of my childrens favourite household chores with some suggestions as to how to engage your child with autism or other disabilities.
This is a number one hands down crowd pleaser for all ages. Who doesn’t love to pour water and keep plants happy at the same time?
Tip: For an older child, or high functioning child, put a popsicle stick into each plant with a colour code of how much or how little water they need. Fashion a juice container into your watering can, with different levels that match the different colours coded onto your stick.
For some people, a perfectly folded item of clothing is sheer heaven. Making little neat – maybe even colour organized – stacks of clothing can be very satisfying. One suggestion I read online was to use a Flip-Fold laundry folder. Some kids might find it fun to use a gadget and supposedly it makes if look professional. Other kids might just enjoy folding without the use of a potentially frustrating gadget.
Tip: It can be better to start with smaller items like socks and underwear, before you tackle that button down. Sometimes kids are more engaged when they are folding their OWN laundry first. Allow your helper to organize by size or colour, or by person, if that seems to be something they would like to do.
I normally start this learning curve with the cutlery – after first removing any sharp knives. Sorting utensils can be fun, and learning to deal with dishes is a good skill set for later in life. Slowly work your way into plates, and then glassware once you can be sure that there won’t be breakage. The key is to build on success and develop confidence.
Mostly for older kids, vacuuming can develop into kind of a passion. Lots of children on the spectrum are fascinated with machines – but there are an equal amount that cannot stand the sound or noise. Suss out if your child would be interested, and then give them a small area, or area rug, to start with.
Tip: Take a cup of baking soda, add some essential oils, and you have a cheap, toxic-free deodorizer that doubles as a clear place for your child to vacuum. Some kids find it hard to know WHERE they should be vacuuming, but vacuuming up your natural deodorizer will make it easy. Mix the soda and a few drops of oils up, use a sieve to shake it out on your carpets, let it sit on your carpets for five minutes, and then away you go! It’s easy to see where to vacuum, and easy to feel good about cleaning up the powdery mess.
All children can learn to enjoy the delights of climbing into a well made bed…even if all they have is a comforter. You can either use visual aids, show them yourself, or use one of the many videos online.
This will be child dependant. Some children can slowly be taught to use knives and cut food. Others will be able to help with food prep like hulling peas or shucking corn. No matter the level, most children will be able to tackle part of the food preparation for a snack or meal. In fact, preparing food can be a great way to get a child interested in eating foods they might normally reject.
So much research has been done around the benefits of animals for those with autism or other disabilities. Feeding and caring for that pet is another way for a child with autism to bond, and feel responsibility for the animal. If the child is a bit fearful or uncomfortable with the pet, being apart of the food ritual is a nice way to connect without having to get too close.
Tip: Use a specific container and mark the line where the food is supposed to be filled up to. If feeding a dog, make sure the dog waits until he is given a signal before he goes ahead and eats the food that has been put down to minimize any stress.
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