Introducing life skills to an autistic child

Life skills are important for any child to learn. They are especially important to a child that has autism. Simple things that neurotypical kids just pick up by observing can be difficult for autistic kids. That is why we as parents must guide them and teach them.

Last week I wrote about life skills and what your child will actually be learning. These life skills I based on a child 9-11 years old. You can create your own life and alter to best fit your child’s ability.

Today I would like to help you with introducing these life skills to your child.

You can’t just ask them or tell them what to do. The best way for your child to learn is to introduce these life skills slowly and in manageable simple steps.

As you may remember from last time, here is the list

Life Skills

Dish washing

Wiping table


Folding laundry

Putting away laundry

Clearing table

Setting table

Basic cooking 

Washing ones body

Teeth brushing

Getting yourself water/drink

Microwaveable meals

Putting on shoes

Wiping yourself

Putting on clothes

Making bed

Cleaning up room

Autism speaks has some great tips to starting teaching life skills to your child.

Taca now has a great list of life skills and other links that will help you on this journey.

So how do we teach these life sills to our autistic children? 

Teaching Life Skills

Dish washing – Start with introducing how water feels on the hands. Next how soap feels.

-Let your child start with washing just one item. Maybe just their plate. Or start with just the utensils. Set a number of days that you want them to practice. Then move on to more and keep going until a full load of dishes are a reality.

Wiping table – This is a fairly easy one. Just let your child wipe after you have cleared the table. You can teach them how to scrub a more difficult spot to clean.

Sweeping – Start with a small designated area that your child is in charge of. With tape, outline a small area where they will sweep the dirt into. Eventually, move the area your child is responsible for out and make it larger.

Folding laundry – Start with something simple such as towels. Move on to simple clothing. And soon the child can pick and fold their own clothing.

Putting away laundry – You can start with something easy like the kitchen towels. Or just the socks. You can move on to just their clothing.

Clearing table – Start with your child putting just their utensils into the sink (or dishwasher). Move on to their utensils and their own plate. Slowly introduce other items. You can make this a chore they do once in a while or make them completely responsible for it and it will be just their job.

Setting table – Similar to the clearing of the table but in reverse. Start with just the napkins or just the utensils. After your child understands and is proficient in the one item add another. Slowly they will be able to safely set the whole table for the family.

Basic cooking – Start with something as simple as handing you an ingredient you need. You can also start them off with the reading of the ingredient list. Is there something they love to eat? Like maybe a hotdog? They can microwave that themselves (microwaving skills!). Do they enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Teach them to spread the peanut butter and jelly on the bread. Make sure those ingredients are close to where they can reach them and stay safe.

Washing ones body – Start your child off with simple tasks first. Washing just one body part while you help them with others. Or just rinsing off, and you help with the rest. Continue introducing something new or more complicated each bath-time or shower time or pick a pace that works for your child.

Teeth brushing – As this is a fairly easy task you can start with helping your child brush and work towards not helping them and then to not supervising. You can start with them putting the toothpaste unto the toothbrush and so on.

Getting yourself water/drink – Make sure your child knows where the appropriate cups he/she can use. How much water can they pour into their cups? 

Microwaveable meals – There may be a few things that your child loves that can be cooked easily and quickly if using the microwave. As long as the microwave is easy for the child to reach, start them off with something that requires very little time. You can also have them assist you. Is there something that you’re microwaving for a while? Let your child press the buttons. Give them the assignment of watching the timer and getting you when the time is up.

Putting on shoes – You can start with skill off with your child knowing where their shoes are and bringing them to you so you can help them. Move on to just putting on one shoe. Work towards both shoes. Are there shoelaces? Work on your child learning to tie them. Velcro? Teach your child how velcro works.

Wiping yourself – Teach your child where the toilet paper is. How much toilet paper is appropriate. What to look for. How to do it. Work your way to your child wiping and flushing on their own.

Putting on clothes – Let your child choose their clothing the night before. You can make this your choice as well if you give them two choices to choose from. Start your child off with one piece of clothing and move on. Maybe its just the shirt? Or maybe socks are easier?

Making the bed – This one can be tricky. Work on this one by limiting how much help you are offering.

Cleaning up room – This one is similar to the making of the bed because you will limit how much help you are offering. You can also give your child the task of cleaning up one type of toy (just the legos or just the stuffed animals, just the cars, etc). 

Life skills

Life skills are so important. Learning life skills can be a long and sometimes difficult process. But our children are worth it. You will be teaching them so much more than just ways to take care of themselves and others. They will learn independence and will grow in self-worth. 

I hope this list and these tips help you teach your autistic child the skills they need to succeed.

You got this, mama!

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life – Proverbs 13:14

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