On October 19, Dr. Dana Reinecke presented “10 Things to Know Before You Leave Home (And How to Learn Them)” at Transitions’ “Strategies to Build Independence for Students with Autism, ADHD and Other Learning Differences” conference. Her presentation covered basic skills that are more challenging for young adults with autism and other learning differences and strategies their support network can use to prepare them to perform those essential tasks on their own. We would like to share what we learned from Dr. Reinecke in this series of posts.
10. Getting Help
Dr. Reinecke considers this one of the most important skills a young adult must know when they leave home. It is essential that a person know how to ask for help when they need it, whether it is an emergency or just something they can’t figure out on their own, and they must also know who to go to for help.
Strategy: Generalization and maintenance
“Generalization” refers to the fact that skills aren’t considered to be mastered until they are seen across situations and over time and can be varied if necessary. For example, a generalized language skill is knowing that “what is your name” and “who are you” are the same question, but the answer can vary based on your relationship to the person asking.
Trapping – teaching what a person needs to do to function, things the person won’t remember if they don’t use them regularly.
Train sufficient exemplars – make sure a person knows what to do when presented with different variations of situations.
Train loosely – keep the training variable with different settings and teachers, so it is not too rigid and the person’s knowledge of what to do isn’t limited to certain settings and people.
Use indiscriminable contingencies – make it unclear when behaviors will be rewarded or not, so the person’s compliance doesn’t depend on external motivation.
Program common stimuli – teach the person to focus on one thing that is always the same, such as the icons outside men’s and women’s bathrooms.
Mediate generalization – make sure the training is addressing behavior across all situations.
Objective 1: Identify a person to ask for help
Program common stimuli for this. Identify a characteristic of people who can help. For example, many common helpers such as police officers and store employees wear name tags.
Objective 2: Ask for help
It is important to train sufficient examples for these situations. Practice asking for help in as many places with as many people as possible – at school with teachers and peers, at work with bosses and coworkers, when traveling with strangers and even at home with family members.
Objective 3: Ask someone else for help
It is important to be able to switch gears and ask someone else for help if one’s first choice turns out to not know the answer or be available to assist. In this case, train loosely. When practicing the skill in public, let the person go and ask someone without your help and let them problem-solve in the moment.
We hope these tips and strategies are helpful to you. Please remember that these are generalized examples and all goals, objectives, teachings and support strategies should always be individualized to see beneficial results. Feel free to mix and max strategies discussed in each post to fit the person you’re teaching. Everyone learns differently, so being flexible and working from individual strengths is absolutely essential in teaching these skills.