Start Early And Often
My ultimate objective is to get rid of my daughter. That’s not quite as bad as it sounds! My goal is to enable my youngest daughter to move out and live in a place of her own. When I have spoken on the podcast to people involved in training programs, one common theme has been that often the young people that come to them lack some of the basic daily living skills.
Why is this the case? When I really think about this, I wonder how many times have I have not given my daughter the chance to do things herself? And it’s not because I don’t want her to be independent or that I don’t think she can do it even. It’s that protective thing that lasts so much longer when you have a child with additional needs. I didn’t want her to go into a café and order a drink and be embarrassed because they don’t understand her or for her to give the wrong money. But isn’t that part of growing up?
I have been working for a number of years on training her in many of the essential daily living skills. She is referred to in our house as the trolley queen because, despite a difficult start where she really needed warning lights, she is now very adept at manoeuvring around the supermarket. She also knows where most items are in our supermarket. She is an expert at self-checkout and I often send her in alone with a shopping list (I am of course waiting outside). Contactless payment makes it all so easy.
She does her own washing and yes it has sometimes meant she had no clean clothes, but she soon figured out the solution was to remember to do her washing. What worked for her was a schedule on a whiteboard with which days she needs to put her washing on. We haven’t gone to next level of sorting our colored from whites but, to be honest, nor do I. I think I will just encourage her not to buy too many red or white clothes.
Cooking is another area where we have tried different strategies but the ultimate end game has been for her to develop confidence. She has gone from sandwiches to making compete meals. It has taken time and patience, and the kitchen does sometimes resemble a demolition site, but it has been worth it to see her create something from scratch. The key for her has been easy to follow recipes with minimal weighing and use of standardised measures, like 1 cup of something and 2 cups of something else. Another top tip would be to start with something they really like to eat. We started with Brownies and they remain to this day a firm favourite and are her signature go to dish for when we have friends round for dinner.
Even now though I wish I had started when she was younger because repetition is key to building skills and confidence. I wish I had started earlier with the easy things and then moved to the more difficult, the more scary (for me obviously) and the more public. And yes no longer worry about her going into a café by herself, because she has done it enough times to know what to do if things don’t work as they should.