Each day we wake up and complete a familiar routine of activities of daily living (ADLs). This may involve eating breakfast, showering, brushing our teeth, packing our lunch, and then heading out the door. Throughout our day we complete several tasks that foster our independence. However for individuals with autism, these daily tasks may be challenging. In order to live independently in society, it is crucial that individuals learn how to perform daily living skills. Activities of daily living include dressing, feeding, toileting, etc. These activities promote independence but why do many individuals with autism have difficulty performing these tasks. A person with autism must learn ADLs differently, taking into account sensory, motor, and social issues. We might have watched our siblings or parents brush our hair then learning how to do it ourselves from imitation. Individuals with autism do not necessarily learn these skills through imitation naturally. Individuals with autism may not necessarily want to do these skills “all by themselves” or care what their peers might think about their inability to perform these skills. Sensory issues may prohibit a child from trying new foods due to the smell or texture, which may result in issues with self-feeding. Motor skills are crucial to independently completing ADLs, if an individual has difficulty opening the toothpaste, the overall skill of brushing his teeth will be difficult.
So what can we do to help teach these skills? Applied behavior analysis allows skills to be taught
specifically to individuals. These ADLs are broken down into behavior chains that are appropriate for the student and their abilities. Skills are then taught through imitation and a variety of prompt levels. But what do we do when a student makes significant gains but still requires prompts? A recent program was developed to better assist individuals with autism in completion of daily living activities. The device evaluated by Bimbrahw, Boger, & Mihailidis, 2012 called COACH, Cognitive Orthosis for Assisting aCtivities in the Home, was developed to autonomously guide individuals with ASD complete daily self-care activities. The device uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to track and provide appropriate prompting for individuals completing the task. The device will allow the removal of a person, reducing dependency in crucial life skills. The device has shown positive outcomes with 74% accuracy in a trial run with 5 children. Further research is expected to allow the development of more technology to better assist individuals with ADLs (Bimbrahw, Boger, & Mihailidis et al, 2012).
Acquiring daily living activities promotes independence. A child who is able to complete the activities without assistance of another individual is able to navigate through daily tasks successfully. The independence in these areas allows overall independence for the child’s future. Independence in ADLs will allow participation in necessary activities such as work and education. Completion of ADLs promotes participation in more complex tasks in the community and at home. Achieving these skills allow individuals to become active members in the community with better outcomes (Weaver et al, 2015).
Bimbrahw, J., Boger, J., & Mihailidis, A. (2012). Investigating the efficacy of a computerized prompting device to assist children with autism spectrum disorder with activities of daily living.
Assistive Technology, 24(4), 286. doi:10.1080/10400435.2012.680661 Weaver, L. L. (2015). Effectiveness of work, activities of daily living, education, and sleep interventions for people with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy : Official Publication of the American Occupational Therapy Association, 69(5), 6905180020p1. doi:10.5014/ajot.2015.017962