Why leisure skills?
Developing leisure skills is an important educational goal that can be addressed at school, in therapy, at home and in the community. Leisure skills are important for several reasons:
- Social interaction. Learning to do leisure skills develops interests that provide social opportunities. Your child (adult) can participate in clubs and activities with other people with similar interests ranging from bowling teams to model railroad clubs to hiking clubs.
- Health. Learning how to do sports promotes their health. Dupers have learned to swim, play basketball, ice skate, ski, rock climb, bike and do many other sports. Sometimes equipment or rules are modified. Special Olympics is a great forum for lifelong sports participation.
- Productive use of time. Teaching leisure skills allows students to spend their time productively to develop skills in varied ways (as opposed to playing on ipad all day long!)
- Family time. Selecting leisure activities that work with your family’s interests and style allows the whole family to participate together.
- Motivation. Once a duper knows how to do something and enjoys it, it can be motivating to get his/her other things done in order to have leisure time.
- Job opportunities. Some leisure skills can translate into skills that can be used in the workplace (e.g., cooking skills can translate into working at a cafe)
- Enjoyment. Teaching leisure skills promotes multiple ways your child can find enjoyment throughout the lifecycle.
Ideas for leisure skills to develop in your child (based on dup15q parent feedback):
- Music. Teach your child to select music on an ipod or CD player to listen to. Teach your child to play an instrument. Support your child singing in a church choir. Attend musicals and concerts.
- Athletics. Teach your child water safety and swimming. Dup15q kids have enjoyed ice skating, downhill skiing, dancing, cheerleading, basketball, baseball, soccer, yoga, tennis, karate, bocce ball, track, bowling, rock climbing and many other sports, either independently, supported, adaptive, special olympics, or unified.
- Desktop activities. Puzzles, pen and paper activities (crosswords, mazes, dot to dot), drawing, string beads, playdoh, art kits, match sightwords with pictures.
- Pretend play. Practice scripts using toy animals, play kitchen, toy garage, train table, etc.
- Sensory play. Water table, sandbox, painting, water beads, kinetic sand.
- Community activities. Teach your child how to order at a restaurant, shop at the mall/grocery store/ farmer’s market, travel by train/bus/plane, check out library books, mail letters, etc. Teach your child how to greet and interact with storekeepers, either verbally or with AAC. Volunteer work.
- Church activities. Membership to a church is something you never outgrow. Create adaptive or inclusive religious education, participate in existing ministries such as choir, community service, collections, hospitality. greeters, casserole making, etc..
- Cooking and kitchen skills. Make green and fruit salads. Make breakfast foods like eggs, toast, oatmeal, cereal and smoothies. Sort and take out recycling. Set and clear table. Empty dishwasher. Bake and decorate cakes.
- Watch movies.
- Computer and video games. This is admittedly an age-appropriate, effective way to connect with peers and siblings, especially interactive video games like Just Dance and Minecraft. Also parents report their kids liking board games and pokemon.
- Amusement destinations. Waterparks, splash pads, playgrounds, trampoline/bounce parks, amusement parks, festivals, parades, museums, aquariums, the boardwalk.
- Animals. Take care of pets. Horseback riding. Farm camp.
- Building materials. Teach your child how to build with legos, magnatiles, lincoln logs, tinker toys.
- Outdoor activities. Hiking, nature walks, picnics, camping, the beach.
- Collecting. Create collections of leaves, stuffed animals, pokemon cards, etc.
- Organized activities. Some organized activities have modifications for special needs participants, such as Boy Scouts’ Individual Scouting Advancement Plans which are like IEPs for earning scout ranks and badges. Other examples are GIrl Scouts, 4-H, Future Farmers of America, pageants, volunteering with a community organization.
Why Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)?
Activities of daily living (ADLs) are sometimes considered “life skills”. They include personal care (dressing, toileting, hygiene), meal preparation, domestic tasks, money skills, shopping, community mobility, social behavior, safety, communication, self-advocacy, self-direction, job skills, and other *adulting* skills. ADLs are important for several reasons:
- Independence. Our student will feel autonomous and proud at being able to take care of himself/herself.
- Options. Mastering certain ADLs will allow your child to access more placement options, e.g., schools where independent toileting is required, group homes where residents need to participate in caretaking.
- Safety. Independence (e.g., in personal care skills) reduces the reliance on others who may take advantage of your student.
There are several ADL assessments that parents, teachers or behaviorists can fill out that assess a student’s ability to perform various tasks independently, with some assistance, or requiring complete assistance. Many of the skills may require practice and training over a long time period to master.
- A free ADL assessment is on page 30 of this guide.
- More in-depth assessments are in the Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFELS) which you can request in an evaluation.
- Highly recommended book on leisure skills and community activities for families with an autistic child is Lisa Jo Rudy’s book Get Out, Explore and Have Fun!