Little Signs Of Independence When Your Kid Has Autism

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at AutismWonderland.

These days, we’re letting him take the lead.

Five years ago when Norrin was diagnosed with autism and started Early Intervention, we had a team of therapists in and out of our apartment. We focused on teaching Norrin how to ask for help. “Help” was one of the first signs he learned and “I need help” was one of the first three word sentences he said.

The irony is that as soon as Norrin began saying “I need help” spontaneously and independently, I prompted him to do the thing that requested help with, himself. Even if he couldn’t do it, I wanted him to at least try before I stepped in to help.

Norrin is eight years old and he still needs my help with many things. The challenge is figuring out when he needs my help and knowing when to let him be. Lately, Norrin’s motto has been “I can do it, all by myself.” He wants to brush his teeth and pour his juice and wash his hair all by himself, pushing my hand away when I try to help. Some days, we walk down the street and he doesn’t even want to hold my hand. And just last night, he took his first selfie! I love these little signs of independence. It’s a good thing. We want Norrin to be as independent as possible.

But independence can be messy.

Norrin doesn’t do the best job at brushing his teeth. When he pours juice, he almost always pours so much, it spills over the top. When Norrin washes his own hair he doesn’t know to rinse all the soap out. And when we’re walking, Norrin has difficulty navigating busy sidewalks. He doesn’t know to look both ways to cross the street.

Norrin craves independence but he still needs my help and my hand. And instead of doing for him, I am learning to guide him. I let Norrin squeeze toothpaste on his brush and let him brush his teeth. When he says he’s all done, I tell him it’s my turn and I brush his teeth again. When he wants something to drink, I stand nearby and let Norrin pour his own juice but I tell him when to stop. And if he spills juice, I make him clean it up.

I’m not going to lie. It’s easier, neater and faster to do for Norrin rather than letting him do things on his own. But if isn’t taught to do these little things for himself, how can he do the bigger things? The little things are the baby steps to an independent life.

Is your child showing signs of independence? How are you letting them go?

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What Is Autism?
What Is Autism?
What Is Autism?

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  1. [...] Was it easier to go in and help him clean? Or just let him leave his room a mess and give him iPad anyway? Of course it was. But how would he benefit from that? If Norrin was a typical kid, I wouldn’t allow the same behavior. I can’t expect Norrin to become independent, if I help him every time he cries for something. [...]