Children with special needs must reach their best potential. Depending on their disabilities and cognitive levels, they should be encouraged to be as independent as possible. It is better for the child and for you (as a parent) to begin at a very early age. A child should be encouraged to feed himself/herself, clean after themselves and throw things away in the trash. If a child/student is unable to, have them ask for “help.” If the child is nonverbal, have the child sign help or have him/her gesture or point to a picture with the sign of “help.” Help the child only if you know the child is unable to complete the task independently or can do the task partially independent (depending on the child’s disability). If the student/child is acting helpless knowing that you will help him/her, encourage the child/student to complete the task. Have patience and wait. Allow the child or student time (10 seconds to a minute) to process the information and complete the task. The more you do for the student at school or child at home, the less he/she will do things independently. For the student or child with cerebral palsy and with physical limitations on the torso and arms, use the “hand over hand” technique. The “hand over hand” technique involves the adult’s (teacher or parent) hands over the child’s hand guiding him/her during the completion of the task. For example, a “hand over hand” technique is having your hands over the child’s hand as you brush his/her teeth. The child should be holding the toothbrush and feeling the brush in his/her hand go back and forth on their teeth as the adult’s hand is over theirs. The adult should allow the child/student to do as much of the brushing on his/her own as possible just using their hand on the child’s hand to guide them.
As a parent and teacher, I know it is hard to refuse help. It could be stressful to refuse help and to teach children to do things independently. We want to help them if we see and think they are struggling. Sometimes, it is more convenient if we just do things for the children/students. We just have to keep in mind that it is beneficial for the child/student if we allow them to do as much as they could independently. It is better for the students and children if they learn earlier on in life. As parents, we want our children to lead happy and independent lives. As teachers. we want our students to be successful and reach their goals.
Praise the student/child for completing every task on their own. Clapping, giving high fives and giving hugs are examples of praise. Create games that help the child/student be independent. We all know that children are more likely to complete tasks when there are games and fun involved. So make it fun if you can!
Below are pictures of my students being independent. One student is holding the flag during our morning routine, an instrument during music and a ball during APE (Adapted Physical Education). The “help” symbol below is taken from the Boardmaker program. It is a picture showing the sign language for “help.” It would be used for students who are nonverbal. There is a also a picture of an adult helping a child to write using the “hand over hand” technique (from google images).
Below are my children being independent. My daughter on the left is zipping up her jacket and putting her sneakers on. My son is playing independently with the train table and his tools.