How to increase independence in a child with a disability (part 10)

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Let your child with disability do a load of laundry and so what if a white t-shirt got mixed in the wash with the brand new jeans…and it’s now light blue. That’s a lesson!

This is Part 10 of our 10-Part blog series about the challenges and experiences of the siblings of kids with a diagnosis. Be sure to check back for future posts in the series.

Read all posts from this series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Our sibling series is coming to an end! As Jess pointed out in her last blog, families often walk a fine line between nurturing a child with a disability (like autism) and promoting their independence. As parents and siblings, it’s normal to want to protect the individual from making mistakes. But haven’t we all had a terrible relationship, bought shoes that were too expensive, or broken a wine glass? If we ALL made mistakes growing up, why is it that a child, teenager, or young adult with disability can’t? While we may want to protect them from any additional hardship (haven’t they faced enough already?!), doing so may also prevent them from achieving whatever level of independence they may be able to reach. Unfortunately, independence doesn’t happen in one day, and while these tips are meant for parents of children with a disability, they in fact apply to all children. The level of independence that can be reached will, however, depend on physical and mental limitations.

Here are a few tips to help you increase independence:

  1. Let’s all take a deep breath! Have a chat with overprotective siblings and explain to them that they have to let Junior gain some independence, and that might involve a few missteps here and there. And that’s fine…maybe you can take advantage of this to get the sibling to show some skills to their sibling (and then you get twice the load off you!)?
  1. Choose realistic target goals and break them down. We can probably agree that managing finances independently might not be the first step. But understanding the value of money and how to create a budget can be started early. When you go to a store, encourage your child to pay and take the change. As your child gets older, give him a budget he can use to buy a treat (how quickly do you think he’ll realize that the best and biggest chocolate bar is more expensive when he has to pay for it?). The same can then be done for buying clothes and shoes, doing laundry (have hampers to sort clothes, use pre-measured soap), setting the table and doing the dishes (maybe with unbreakable dishes; buy pods for the dishwasher so no measuring needs to occur), preparing food (start with easy sandwiches, then grilled cheese, followed by pre-packaged pasta and sauce, and maybe you’ll make it to a a more complex meal).
  1. Accept mistakes. Obviously, if you (or an older sibling) did everything, it’d be quicker, better, etc. But will you always be there? Or will a sibling want to do everything you’re doing for your child? So you let your child do a load of laundry and so what if a white t-shirt got mixed in the wash with the brand new jeans…and it’s now light blue. That’s a lesson! It’s not the end of the world if your child spent too much on a few items of clothing, and doesn’t have enough money to buy as many different outfits as you hoped. They are all great lessons.

We hope you enjoyed our Sibling Series! Stay tuned for our next series starting next week! Our team will be posting a Holiday Gift Guide for Kids with Special Needs!

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