Home Programs for Autism

Autistic children have significant difficulties in communicating and learning. Many parents wish to give their child expanded learning opportunities by using home programs in addition to the child’s school curriculum. Often, a child’s physician can offer guidance on creating a successful home program that is specific to the needs of the child. Typical goals for home programs include improved communication, development of new social skills and the development of an interest in interacting with others.

Communication Program

An autistic child may display echolalia, a condition in which he repeats the words of someone else, according to “Educating Children With Autism” by The National Academies Press. Although this may seem like progress to the parent of a child who has been non-verbal for years, it is important to ascertain that the child understands the meaning of words. A simple communication program may involve taking a jump into the air, then speaking the word, “jump.” Using actual objects is preferable to pictures of objects at this stage of development. For instance, a parent should go outside and touch a tree instead of looking at a picture of a tree when saying “tree.” Friendly encouragement works better than insistence that the child speak. The goal is to have the child use words on his own rather than mimic what the adult says. Once single-word communication is mastered, two-word sentences should be attempted, such as “water drips” or “dog runs.”

Social Development Program

Play is important to the development of all children and makes an ideal opportunity to improve the social development of an autistic youngster. The child can be taught to play with a toy for a period of time, then share the toy with another child while she observes the other child at play. Play periods may need to be about one minute per child in the beginning, with a goal of eventually reaching five minutes of playtime for each child. Finding a game that requires or allows two children to work together can also be incorporated into the social development program. Large, interlocking building blocks are ideal for these exercises. Significant adult involvement is needed to ensure that healthy social interaction is occurring.

Independence Training Program

Older children with autism may benefit from independence training. When tasks such as preparing a sandwich, dressing and grooming have been mastered, the child may be ready to learn such tasks as washing her own laundry, making her bed and shopping for healthy foods. Preparation for vocational opportunities may also be possible. The University of North Carolina School of Medicine TEACCH Autism Program reports that autistic adults often prefer jobs that are repetitive and structured. To prepare for a future job, an adolescent may be taught to knit, sort objects or work on a computer, depending on her abilities and interests.

About this Author

A professional writer since 2007, Lucy Boyd has authored multiple medical books. Magazines such as “P.I. Magazine” and “A&U—America\’s AIDS Magazine” call on her to create articles explaining psychiatric and medical issues. Boyd is a registered nurse who graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of the State of New York, Regents College.