Chores for kids with Autism
Chores are great for ALL kids!
It has long been known that having children do chores helps them build confidence, learn respect, improve behavior and encourage responsibility. Most parents have their child (ren) do something to help out around the house. When it comes to children with a developmental disability though, often chores are either overlooked or the parent does not feel that there are any that are appropriate for the child.
There are chores that are appropriate for kids with disabilities, there are ways to modify common chores to make them appropriate. The benefits are certainly not lost on a disabled child- in fact, in many cases the benefits are amplified! When a child realizes their limitations, or watches everyone do things that they can't, creating chores tailored to their abilities gives them achievable goals. When the child begins to completes these tasks they feel proud and their confidence begins to grow.
Of course kids with Autism will often need help feeling proud- they may be so furious with doing the job in the first place that the completion fails to register! Be sure to show them how proud you are each and every time they complete a chore, reward them, brag about it to a friend or family member in front of the child!
Keep reading for chore ideas and special modifications to common chores so that your child with autism can benefit from one of the least fun (but most rewarding) parts of being a child!
The chore ideas on this page
are the same as those done by neurotypical kids. Some may need to be modified for physical ability or developmental ability. The big difference though, is that kids with ASD often start the "toddler" chores later in life and require more instruction. As you go down the page you will see them becoming more advanced. I separated them by developmental abilities and experience for safety reasons!
How old was your child when they started helping out?
For parents of Neurotypical kids
How old was your child when they started helping out?
For Parents of Kids with ASD
If your child with an ASD has never done any chores... you should start slowly - Follow the step by step guide to help you get started
Remember, kids with ASD thrive on routine. If you are new to the world of Autism, this is NOT the time to start sabotaging the routine. Sabotaging the routing (in small ways) becomes essential later on- helps reduce rigidity and tantrums caused by transitions and disruptions. I only point this out because it is important that you not allow yourself believe that if you set up a routine now, it will be permanent and inflexible. You must always be prepared for that next step. The routine must be in place until the child is comfortable and beginning to excel, but NOT long enough to allow complacency.
When you begin adding chores to the child's routine you will be sabotaging their routine, and each time you modify it thereafter. Be prepared for tantrums, it may get ugly! Do NOT give in!!!! Start by planning which jobs you want your child to do- create a list and really think...
How much can they handle?
Which jobs are appropriate?
How much can I commit to?
What is the best reinforcer for my child?
Do NOT introduce the chores until YOU are prepared!
Don't stop at the first list....
If your child with ASD CAN'T do any of those... select some to try, but keep reading, it may trigger creative ideas for you.
Also, kids with ASD may flourish with different chores- they may master one beginner chore, struggle with the others and yet master a handful of more advanced ones. I separated them for safety- use your best judgement about your child's developmental abilities to determine which are best for them!
STEP 1 - Look at the list of chores below and read through reader's suggestions.
If the chores are mastered in the 1st list, proceed to the next and so on. Also please check the suggestions- people leave great ideas!
Find 3 chores that relate to an issue in your home.
Does your child leave their laundry by the tub or other unsuitable place?
Do they leave globs of toothpaste in the sink, wall or floor?
Do your pets drink a lot?
Pick just 3 to start with. You will add to this list as soon as the child does all 3 for 2 weeks without using hand-over-hand.
Now... write them down!
Help your child understand that chores are a part of life.
If your child tries their best to clean something....
DO NOT go over it again immediately- if it is safe to do so, wait 24 hours to avoid hurt feelings.
If the child sees you going over it after they worked hard it may affect their confidence and discourage them from trying again.
Daily beginner chores that are common for kids with Autism or Aspergers to help out with - Each of these will depend upon the developmental capability of the ch
Many of these do not seem like chores to parents of Neurotypical kids- they are things that are just done, although reminders are needed. Kids with Autism may need each of these scheduled and labeled a job or chore in order to begin to do them. Often chores with kids who have ASD must be done Hand-over-Hand for the first few days, weeks or sometimes even longer, see step 3 for more info.
- Putting laundry in the basket
- Sorting socks
- Bringing in selected grocery bags
- Watering the yard
- Feeding pets
- Picking up their own toys
- Rinsing their sink after brushing teeth
- Getting the mail
- Brushing the pets (if pet is tolerant of the child doing so)
- Putting away their clean laundry
- Giving Water to the pets * (you may need to supervise to notice spills and prevent mold!)
- Stir baking mixes- no stove, no oven, no knives, plastic bowl only
- Help wash the car (dish soap)
Have them help in the yard!
Daily Intermediate Chores for kids with ASD
A little more challenging. Some are modified for safety.
*Cleaning sprays are replaced with a spray bottle containing vinegar and water.
**Wipes like clorox and furniture wipes are replace by Baby wipes- this is NOT good for real wood finishes- only use the baby wipes on the laminate type of furniture.
- *,**Wiping out the bathroom sink and faucet.
- sweeping *careful- move breakables- there is often a coordination issue here!
- Rinsing dishes
- dumping laundry (presorted) into the machine
- dusting * again- careful with breakables!
- **Wiping the blinds
- Putting clean clothes on hangers
- setting up the sprinkler (ok, usually this means playing in it!)
- cleaning small cages
- Taking out their own trash (bathroom, bedroom)
- restocking the fridge (juice boxes, soda etc)
- Setting the table (plastic plates and cups in the beginning)
- Help prepare dinner- no knives, no stove or oven, no handing raw meats or poultry
- Really helping to bring in groceries!
Independence is the greatest gift you can give a child with special needs
Maybe they will not be completely independent adults, maybe they will. Either way teaching them any task that they offers them SOME independence is a great gift!
Daily advanced chores for kids with ASD
- Washing dishes (no sharp knives)
- Drying dishes (no sharp knives)
- Putting away dishes (no sharp knives)
- Pouring drinks (not the grownup kid!)
- Helping to serve dinner
- Helping to prepare dinner with a real (although not too big, sharp or pointy) knife, may help with meats when supervised and washing hands thoroughly after.
- Walking the dog (with a grown up)
- Mopping- supervision required for cleaning solution unless vinegar is used
- Starting the washing machine (adult adds soap to prevent overflow)
- Removing laundry from dryer, sort and fold or hang- put away
- bathroom floor
- Brush toilet (cleaner depends upon child)- my son is not allowed anything but vinegar as he gets it on his face.
- Clean windows
- Mulching and weeding flower beds
- Putting groceries away
- taking out the household trash (including kitchen)
WOWSERS! Chore ideas for really advanced kids with ASD or Aspergers! - ONLY when the child is ready...
- Cleaning their bathroom with real cleaners
- Being in charge of the grocery list at the store
- Helping with all aspects of meal preparation
- polishing furniture
- taking out/ separating trash and recycling to the curb
- Help cleaning the kitchen with real cleaners
- laundry- including adding soap. transfer to dryer, sort and put away
- running a dishwasher including adding the soap
- cleaning grout
Make it special for them! - Remember the excitement of the new binder or pencils for school?
Sometimes they feel better about it if they get to pick out their own special cleaning caddy and you help them stock it! You can have them decorate it to make it even more special! Our son's caddy has baby wipes, rags, a spray bottle with vinegar and recently we were able to add clorox naturals wipes! He was so excited about his little caddy that he carries it around everywhere looking for things to scrub!
STEP 2 - Create the routine
If you already have a routine in place then find the best place to add these in.
Example:If you chose "putting laundry in the basket" for example, schedule it around bedtime or bath time. Be sure to put the basket exactly where you want to keep it- putting the basket in the area they want it will work in the short term- then if you put it where you want it months from now... they will just drop the clothes where it used to be!
Do you have a visual cue system such as PECS? If so, find the most appropriate cue and add it to their bath time chart.
Do you have a daily schedule? Add it in!
Another way to help visually is to find clipart, and print out a picture that can act as a visual cue. Put a piece of clear packaing tape over it to "laminate" it if you do not have a laminator and stick it to the item in question (a picture of clothes on the laundry basket, water near the dog bowl,etc) be sure to refer your child to those images as they do the chores.
Make sure to work all three in to the routine every day! Once they master these skills you can add in the more challenging chores! If they have already mastered the above chores, keep reading below, they become more challenging toward the bottom.
Visual Cues can really help
STEP 3 - The hard part- Introduce the new chores to your child!
The first few days are the worst so don't do this on a day that you can't handle the tantrums!
When they wake up, do your normal routine which hopefully involves looking at their schedule. Point out the new additions in the schedule. Try to sound excited about it! (Please do not say things like "since you always make a mess, today you are going to have to clean it up".. etc) Try something along the lines of " Today we will put the laundry in the basket! It will be fun and you could win(insert prize here)!!!!"
When it comes time to actually do it, try it verbally and point at a visual cue. If they do not understand, demonstrate. If they say no... try hand-over-hand.
Hand-over-hand really is just what it says. A few simple rules go with it.
Try to be beside or behind them so that they have a clear line of sight to their own hand.
gently but firmly place your hand on theirs, move their hand to the item in question.
Help them pick it up with that hand- if they don't close their fingers you can help with that part the first few times by grabbing the item yourself- they must be touching it though.
Move their hand with the item where you want it to be. If it is an action like wiping, do the action with them.
When they are doing it on their own, let go and praise! Give a reward when the task is complete!
DO NOT repeat a task like putting away by removing the items and doing it again. Find another item that goes in the same place or wait for the next opportunity. Kids with ASD often will interpret that as how it is really done- Example: the laundry basket- if you put it in, then take it out and put it in and take it out... they will think they are supposed to do exactly that!
*Often, kids with ASD will not do it on their own the first few times, it may take a lot of hand-over-hand to complete the task.
The Most Important Thing about Hand-Over-Hand
*DO NOT FORCE THEIR HAND- GUIDE IT.
If you have a firm grip and they twist hard, let go, try again in a minute.
If you are NOT trained in gentle restraint, and do not have a professional with you back off if they become violent. You may harm them in trying to force them or restrain them.
Keep trying, just wait until they are calm to do so!
There are a few chores that are OFF limits in our home until my son is at least 16 years old
Picking up doggy poo
(even at 16 I doubt I will let him mow)
Anything with a power tool really!