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.
Handling friendships as adults is much more difficult than it is as children, because friendships between children are often scheduled and managed by parents and schools. For some young adults, that structure can leave them not knowing how to make friends on their own. It is important that they be taught how to make plans to do fun things, initiate those plans by calling or texting, suggest specific activities at specific times, be on time for activities, make plans to do something else in the future after a successful interaction, end activities appropriately and follow through on plans.
Shaping is the practice of teaching a new skill from the ground up. It is common with language, play skills and social skills. Training moves gradually, starting with what is comfortable and natural to the person and reinforcing approximations to the goal until skills build. The training should build in demands and take small steps toward new sets of behaviors.
Objective 1: Making plans with friends
A person’s behavior can be shaped toward comfortably making plans by starting with texting rather than calling and building up to more in-person invitations. Social media and software such as Skype are also useful in this endeavor.
Objective 2: Following through
Some young adults need to build flexibility with what activities they are willing to do with other people. They may want to stick only with what they are familiar with and be reluctant to try new things. This can limit activities they do with friends. To shape this behavior, the person can start doing a highly preferred activity that they choose with a friend, then move to doing a preferred activity that the friend and they chose together, and finally moving to an entirely new activity that the friend picks.
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.