Chores for Autistic or ADHD Children

Chores for special needs kids require adjustments be made to meet your child where they are


As a parent of an autistic child or a child with ADHD, you want your child to grow into independence and be able to one day thrive on their own. However depending on your child’s particular struggles and challenges, you may wonder what your child can realistically take on. Or you may simply question when to push them to do more or when to let things go.

The truth is raising an autistic child or a child with ADHD requires a complete overhaul of your expectations as to what they can and cannot do. But with the right structure and support, your child can work towards more independence through chores.

Parenting tips on implementing chores for autistic or ADHD children


Be realistic with what your child can do


A child’s numerical age is rarely, if ever, aligned with their developmental age when they have autism or ADHD. Understanding your child’s diagnosis and what their strengths and challenges are can help to guide you in setting what chores your child can take on.


Pay attention to sensory triggers


If your child is sensitive to a particular sense, make sure you take that into account when deciding what chore to give them. Are they able to handle the sound, vibration and sometimes smell of a vacuum? If not, don’t make that a chore for them. Perhaps sweeping would be a better fit. If your child has tactile sensitivities then finding the right kind of glove they can wear when doing their chores is necessary before you can take on giving them chores.


Be realistic with what your end goal is


Some neurodivergent children will be able to live independently with proper supports in place, some will be able to live in a group home setting, and some will require more dependent care. As your child grows and you have more experience learning what their challenges mean for them, adjust your end goal accordingly. View this as a fluid process and a slower launching process. Expecting too much of your neurodivergent child too soon can cause them to shut down and become overwhelmed, which can lead to anxiety or depression.


Have a candid discussion with your teenager


For teenagers who will eventually be living in a group home or independently, have a candid conversation about what daily chores they struggle with. If they truly cannot pick up after themselves because their neurodivergence is making it too big of an obstacle, talk to them about their options. They can either agree to implementing and working through chore routines in small, manageable steps or they will need to always budget for a cleaning service to take care of this aspect of their life. If they choose the cleaning crew option, don’t fight it, don’t spend your time and energy on it, just move on to something that they are willing to work on.


Use visuals

For all chores, use a visual chart. For example, take a before picture of dishes in the sink, a picture of them doing the dishes, and then a picture after the dishes are done. Display these pictures instead of a chore list.


Use Choice Boards


Allowing your child to choose the chore they will complete from 2-3 pictures can increase success.


Break Down Chores


Break down all chores into smaller tasks to be completed. If you can, continue to provide visuals for the smaller steps until they are learned. For example, if the chore is to load the dishwasher, have a picture of glasses to indicate all the glasses should be loaded first, then plates and so on.


Provide Rewards to Reinforce Habits


The use of rewards can be extremely effective for neurodivergent children. It does not need to be something huge, perhaps a favorite snack, special art supplies only available when chores are completed, a game, screen time, etc. Make sure to show a picture of the reward next to the chore so your child knows what they are working for.


Final thoughts

Life with a autisic child or child with ADHD can feel overwhelming, frustrating and full of worry. Please remember you are not alone. If you have any questions about parenting your neurodivergent child or if you would just like support from someone who truly understands the challenges and struggles you are facing on a daily basis, please connect for a free 30 minute chat.

If you need ideas about what kind of chores to give your child, check out our Chore List by Age.