Many parents for special needs children know the term “activities of daily living,” also referred to as ADL. These activities are the basic tasks of everyday life, and they include tasks such as eating, bathing, clothing, and toileting. For most children, these tasks are learned relatively easily and become a part of a daily routine. For children with special needs, these tasks might be more difficult and might require constant reminding or rewards for completing the activities of daily living.
Activities of daily living are crucial for children with special needs to achieve some independence and learn the skills they will need for their adult lives. Many children learn these skills by imitating adults and are motivated by the appeal of being a “big kid.” For children with special needs, such as autism, the communication and attention deficits that are a part of the disorder interferes with their ADL and self-care behavior. For special needs children, activities of daily living might require intensive instruction and routines.
For children with special needs such as motor difficulties, buttoning a sweater might be a very challenging ADL. For special needs children who have trouble interacting socially, they might not care that their peers are performing a certain activity, and they are not motivated to complete the same activities of daily living.
Occupational therapists work extensively for special needs children to improve their ADL. Occupational therapists help children with special needs to become physically, psychologically, and socially independent by working towards specific goals. For special needs children who have difficulty brushing their teeth, an occupational therapist might teach steps towards achieving this goal. These steps might be broken down into very small pieces, such as reaching out their hands, touching the toothbrush, grasping the toothbrush, picking up the brush, and so forth.
For special needs children and their parents, routines and new behaviors must be learned to complete activities of daily living. Allow extra time in the morning to complete ADL. Remove tags from clothing and use quality fabrics for clothing to avoid any sensory issues with dressing. Set up a “chore” checklist and give rewards for special needs children who complete their activities of daily living. Give enough supervision and feedback to ensure the ADL is being completed properly and observe what areas you child might need help with and what activities of daily living he can do independently.