Strategies for the family and home

A child or young person with autism is a valuable member of the family and wider community. It is vital for the individual’s sense of empowerment and self-esteem that he or she feels a valued member.

Fostering a sense of belonging to the family and wider groups may improve quality of life for all members.  It is a two-way process, and while the individual with autism may receive care and support from the family and community, it is equally important that he or she contributes to these groups.  The ability to be an active participant may then have a positive impact on the individual’s sense of self-worth.

As an individual with autism often has a complex array of social and care needs, the family frequently takes on a caring role and may have limited expectations of how much the individual can contribute to his or her own daily needs and to family life.  The ability to be an active member of the family and community may be underestimated and quickly a ‘learnt dependency’ may develop.  This means that the individual with autism may rely on others to meet all needs and does not reach his or her full potential in terms of independence and self-advocacy.  Empowering individuals to take responsibility for daily tasks and to make independent choices may develop a sense of autonomy and subsequently improve self-esteem and quality of life.

Expectations for independence will need to be realistic and will vary greatly from one individual to another.  Goals for independence can range from eating independently with a spoon to preparing for living independently outside the home.  Making choices may range from choosing a cereal for breakfast to deciding what type of bank account to open.  The important point is that the individual is facilitated to reach the maximum level of independence achievable for him or her.

The family and wider community can build the capacity of the individual to achieve greater independence and autonomy.  This may be done through the creation of a supportive environment, appropriate and consistent learning strategies and working in partnership with schools and other organisations.  Creating opportunities for independence and self-advocacy can be difficult and time consuming for the family.  It is, therefore, important to not only build the capacity of the individual with autism but to also develop the ability of the family to effectively support this child or young person. AsIAm offers support and information to assist parents and families in their role, I Am… A Family Member  http://asiam.ie/i-am-a-parent-family-member