Monday, April 9, 2012

fostering independence

We've had a few broken dishes at my house in the past few weeks. My son has reached a new stage called I Do It Myself. Most of us who work with, know, or have small people in our lives are familiar with this year or so of life that makes us simultaneously excited for the future and nauseated over the amount of money we will have to spend on hair dye to cover our new gray patches.

My son's independent streak focuses on two main areas -- using the microwave and dressing himself. He also really, really, really likes making toast. I've had success using picture schedules for routine tasks both at school and at home in the past, so I am going to make this one for him.







It's easy as a parent to want to step in and do it myself because it's faster, or because I'm tired of Punkin's little feet stepping on mine after a long day. But what I've learned as an educator and parent of a child with a disability is that it's more important to teach life skills for the long run.  So how can we incorporate this idea in the classroom?

1. Keep Quiet! Let children interact on their own before intervening. Don't speak for them before allowing them a chance to speak for themselves. This also means that sometimes when our instinct is to yell, "STOP!" because it's too messy or might be slightly dangerous, we need to allow our little ones freedom to act.

2.  Stop Anticipating! This is the easiest trap to fall into. We all see the empty cup at lunch and fill it up without thinking. Meal times are an excellent time to encourage language. When you see an empty cup and you know a child wants more milk, try making eye contact with the child and simply waiting for him to initiate the request. If he doesn't, ask, "What do you want?" and wait. Still no answer? Sign and say "more" by tapping the fingertips of both of your hands together.

If you have a child who is non-verbal or who has limited language, try taking pictures of your menu items and placing them near the child's place setting during meals. Then he can hand you the picture of the item he wants more of during the meal. For example, if you are having a sandwich, carrots, applesauce, and milk for lunch, the student would have a picture of each of those items next to his plate. When he wants more milk, he simply hands you the picture of milk. Then you can work on saying, "more milk."

3. Set Up Supports for Success. Using picture schedules can cut down on the number of verbal reminders required for a child to complete a task and has the added bonus of giving yourself a break from hearing your own voice repeated all day. 

Here's a simple hand washing picture to hang above the sink.
In all seriousness, though, children need to know that it's not only okay to use their voices, but encouraged. Nurturing their sense of independence into lifelong skills is one of the greatest gifts we can provide them.

I wrote this for PreK and K Sharing. Go check them out!


Joscelyne hilton said...

Where do you get your picture cards? I haven't found many that are free and work for what I need. Thanks. It's a great post just what I needed to read.

Kristiem10 said...

Excellent job! I've been working with my boys to be more independent, too. And weirdly, making toast is one of their favorite things to make.

fragilemom said...

Independence....a great thing...for the most part. Yes, it is definitely difficult to hold back doing it yourself. But the rewards of seeing their proud little faces are so great! We love picture schedules! The making toast one is great. I'm hoping to get Boardmaker at home soon.

the other lion said...

Thanks. The hand washing one is board maker. The other one is from a collection provided by our school district.

the other lion said...

They really need a play date. :)