As a parent of a daughter with a disability, I am always thinking of how to move her toward independence. Steps to her self-reliance have to be more deliberate than with my other child. My son, who does not have a disability, will take these steps on his own as a natural part of growing up, but my daughter’s growth often depends on me.
I was recently in a conversation about promoting independence. That started me thinking about a step-by-step plan for my daughter to become more independent.
Currently, my daughter is escorted everywhere she goes at school and in the community. But I can see more independence in her future.
My plan includes sending her on “errands.” The errands will start small and simple. At first, she will have close supervision and direction. Then, as she reaches success, we can build on the distance and complexity of those errands.
What kind of “errands” am I thinking of?
At home, the errand might include taking a letter or book to the living room to give to Dad. Or maybe I will have her take a pair of socks to her brother’s room. These are small jobs, but it will be a challenge and a success for her to do them.
At school, the errands can start with taking a worksheet to the teacher’s desk. Then maybe she can take a note to the teacher across the hall. For these errands, an adult or peer helper can be close behind coaching her and supervising her.
Once my daughter is successful at these small errands, we can increase the difficulty. Maybe she can deliver a note to the classroom two doors down, to the library, or to the office. We can increase the difficulty of the errands by adding distance and decreasing support and supervision. The goal will be for her to get from one classroom to another on her own.
At home, perhaps I can send her with a note for my next-door neighbor. The first few times, I can do the errand with her. Then I can step back and just watch her to be sure she gets there safely. As her experience and success grows, I can expand her responsibility by sending her two doors down, etc.
Any steps I can take toward independence will help my daughter in the long run. I believe this plan will lead to her gaining more independence and self-confidence. One step at a time.
There are several blogs written by parents on promoting independence in your child on this website you might want to check out.
Some parents hold their children back from independence and freedom, feeling that they are protecting them. The truth is that their children cannot grow if they are stuck in their parents’ comfort zones.
Jennifer Allen has created a program to help make driving safer for drivers who have problems with communication.