My son Surya was four years old when the therapist suggested that Activities of Daily Living (ADL) should be incorporated everyday in his training programme. My first reaction was like any parent who believed that autism is a condition that has no cure and I would have to take care of his daily needs. She patiently explained to me that autism is a condition just like diabetes or thyroid whereby managing it controls it and people who manage their disorders do function normally.
Activity 1 We started with brushing teeth and combing hair in the first week. Due to tactile issues there was a lot of resistance from him. It took one year for him to be self reliant in both activities without any tantrums or escapism.
Acitivity 2 He could wear Floaters or Velcro strapped shoes very easily in a week but ankle length socks were thrown away promptly. It took over six months to get him to wear socks on his own.
Acivity 3 We started with buttoning the shirt, independently wearing the t- shirt and shorts along with doing and undoing the zip. He learnt to dress himself independently with shorts and sleeveless t shirts in three months, zipping and unzipping shorts in six months but buttoning the shirt was a big challenge for his tender little fingers with severe muscle weakness. After years of therapy and regular training by his school staff he achieved this when he was 10yrs old.
Activity 4 I love food and I love cooking for my children. When my therapist suggested we introduce Surya to kitchen skills I was taken aback. How could this child who can’t even hold a pencil properly peel and chop vegetables, with a knife and learn basic cooking? We started with small activities like separating curry leaves or fenugreek leaves from their stems. He enjoyed the plucking and sorting. We went on to peeling boiled potatoes, green peas and boiled corn. Therapists and teachers in school taught him to chop vegetables into small pieces. I showed him that every vegetable he chopped or bought at the store was used for making his dinner. The Sambhar we eat, the Parathas we make and the Vegetables we cook are with his contributions. I always thank him when he completes his kitchen activity and reward him with his favourite dishes. He makes Tang independently, serves himself when nobody is there to help and even washes his plate with a little prompting. In another two years he has to learn basic cooking. Like always I feel my little boy is not going to be able to do this but some part of me knows that he is going to achieve it surprise himself and me.
Today at the age 11, he is nearly self-reliant: brushing his teeth, using the washroom, clothing himself, bathing and eating his food. We only have to stand quietly nearby to supervise him. His visuals still play a very important role in prompting when he occasionally gets stuck. Overall by ensuring he is independent in daily activities my therapists and school team have gifted him with a life of independence and confidence. Training Surya was very tough and physically challenging for us at home and today I am just thankful for all the hands that helped us in this journey. Every child has a right to function independently, so dear parents do give them a fair chance by training them and supporting them with careful supervision. When you finally see your child doing things independently and happily the concept of dignity of labour will have a new meaning in your life. We still have a long way to go but today I can confidently say that we are more than half way through this journey and after all you have to enjoy this journey to reach the desired destination that is freedom to live life independently every day.
Please share with me, if you have any suggestion or your experiences in the field of ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING.