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.
1. Food, Eating and Meals
Handling meals is probably the most essential, basic skill an independent young adult must have. Everyone has to eat. Skills required in this area include planning meals, grocery shopping, preparing foods, making healthy eating choices and including variety in diets.
Prompting is guiding an individual through a task with written or verbal instructions. Shopping lists and recipes are examples of prompting.
Visual – videos and tutorials.
Verbal – someone stands with the individual and tells them what to do.
Gestural – someone stands with the individual and makes gestures, e.g. pointing.
Physical – someone shows the individual how to do the task.
Prompt fading – gradually phasing a prompt out. Some can be used indefinitely, especially visual prompts, but verbal and gestural prompts should gradually obsolesce.
Objective 1: Create a healthy meal plan
Visual prompts such as color-coded charts with pictures of healthy eating choices are effective. The charts should be broken down by day, time and meal. Create limited choices and let the individual build their own plan from that – this is less overwhelming than not giving them any guidelines, but it’s structured enough to curb opportunities to make very unhealthy choices.
Objective 2: Buy food
Visual prompts in the form of short, simple lists work well. Make sure to teach the students how to do this themselves. Other options include preprinted checklists of items they might need and grocery shopping websites and apps.
Objective 3: Prepare food
Use audio-visual prompts for recipes – videos, text, pictures and combinations of the three. These do not need to be deliberately faded out. The student should be able to just use them until they learn how to do it without help.
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.
Good luck and check this blog again next week for the next installment in this series.