So let’s talk about chores and self-care for special needs kids
Are you making self-care for special needs kids a priority? I know not all of us have kids whose special needs enable them to do everything for themselves. I’m definitely Not saying that every kid should do everything for themselves, by themselves. But stop for a minute and ask yourself, truly, are you allowing them to work up to the best of their abilities? I remember the first time an Early Interventionist called me out. I definitely thought I wasn’t doing too much for my son, but I totally was.
Teaching life skills and self-care for special needs kids is an important part of our role as homeschooling parents.
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There are four main reasons I recommend making teaching life skills & self-care for special needs kids a priority. First, kids don’t stay kids. Second, it provides them some well-deserved dignity; greater self-esteem and better understanding privacy are benefits of learning to do then things for themselves. Third, these things are building blocks for other skills. And lastly, it’s an investment in your own self-care! I’m serious about that last one, you’ll see what I mean… (don’t miss my helpful hint towards the end!)
Kids don’t stay kids
For those of us whose children have the opportunity to live independently, or even semi-independently, the younger we start teaching them life skills to care for themselves and for their home, the better we are preparing them for that independence. We’re maximizing their future independence.
Whether living on their own, with their own family, In a group home, or with you, being able to help out is going to be important in maintaining acceptable living conditions and healthy relationships. I know before my son had big turnarounds I worried more often for his future after we pass, and I see it more than I can say across the internet. We can’t control the future or be living outside the present, but we can do our best in the here and now to prioritize teaching these skills.
Sure they’re going to be times and situations where our kids are like us: “I don’t wanna do all the things! I don’t wanna do dishes! I just wanna relax!” Here’s the thing though, imagine if you had the ability to do all these things taken away from you.
What if you couldn’t run your own household? It would be nice for a time, but it would get old. Whether they know it or not, they’ll love the sense of pride that comes with sincere effort and every little success. Feeling more capable is a gift they deserve. In a world where they may always hear they can’t, let’s do our best to help them know they can. Even when it’s not easy for us.
As far as bathing and other related things go, helping them become self-sufficient when possible will help them to better protect their privacy rights down the road in my opinion. They’ll be less used to allowing people that much access to themselves and, hopefully, will potentially be less vulnerable.
Many chores and self-care activities provide building blocks for other skills and abilities down the road. The first time we had an assessment with a BCBA, she showed me the results, explaining that children with autism have skill sets like Swiss cheese. This meaning they had some abilities beyond average for their age, while also experiencing huge skill gaps in areas at and below their age. As she explained to me, our goal is to fill in those gaps, giving them a solid foundation. Makes sense, right?
If we don’t move on to multiplication and division before addition and subtraction is mastered, we don’t just move on. Nor do we just give up on math entirely. We keep working towards mastery on that skill, understanding that all other math skills will be learned more effectively atop a solid foundation.
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Some skills strengthened by teaching life skills and self-care for special needs kids:
-Fine motor skills
-Attention to detail
-Logic and reasoning
-Cause and effect
Your own self-care
I know right here you probably want to laugh. You may be thinking, “My kid trying to do any chores or self-care is going to stress me out more than anything else!” I’ve been there too, some days I’m still there. Honestly, I’m often still there. But not every day has to be that way!
You have to see teaching life skills & self-care for special needs kids as an investment. It’ll take time and energy, of course, to teach these things (or, using the analogy, “see returns”). It may take them longer to learn, quite possibly, than typically developing kids. This is true, but the point is that they will get there.
You don’t have to invest time in this every. single. day. When you’re in a hard season of life, stop all your “investments.” But whatever you have already invested in, skills wise, can be could put to good use.
What does “compound interest” look like in these situations? Let’s say that you informally devote an hour every day to reinforcing or teaching life skills and self-care. As they learn, they begin to relieve you of some of that time. I understand that teaching them to do it for themselves is going to take longer, initially, than you just doing it for them. It’s likely to be more stressful too. Once they have it, however, that time frame you would have been using each day on said activity shrinks. You can keep reinvesting that time in new skills. You may still be spending an hour a day teaching them, but you are saving in on the skills which they have mastered.
On the hard days though, you can stop all of the teaching temporarily and just rely on the skills they’ve already acquired. This is a huge life-saver and self-care strategy for you!
A recent example from my own life
During a day of fasting and prayer, I was tired and had an unbelievable headache. Because I had spent time teaching my boys to do the dishes and cook some basic meals, they were both willing and able to help. They generously offered to make their own lunches and dinners and to help out around the house.
If I had accepted the limitations in years prior, and told myself it was faster to do it by myself, I wouldn’t have extra help like this on hard days. And the most important thing? They were both so pleased with themselves and their efforts! It made them feel great to help their mom, and you could see that radiating from within!
Your turn: tell me in the comments, have you made either of these things a priority? What holds you back if you don’t?
50 Life Skills Checklist
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