Chores for Children with Special Needs

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

As a parent of a child with special needs, a learning disability, or a disorder, 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 question if this is even possible. Or you may simply question when to push them to do more or when to let things go.

The truth is raising a child with a learning disability, special needs or a disorder requires a complete overhaul of your expectations as to what they can and cannot do. Add into the mix that a child that requires “more” may have a hard time with accomplishing the basics in life, like hygiene, it can make chores seem like pie in the sky dreams.

Tips on implementing chores

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 a learning disability, special needs or disorder. Understanding your child’s diagnosis and what their strengths and challenges are can help to guide you in setting the chores for your child with special needs.

Pay attention to sensory triggers

If your child is sensitive to a particular sensory input, 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 sensitivity then maybe 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 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 learning disability, special needs or disorder mean for them, adjust your end goal accordingly. View this as a fluid process and a slower launching process. Expecting too much of your “more” child too soon can cause them to shut down and become overwhelmed, which can lead to anxiety or depression.

Have a candid discussion with adolescents

For adolescents 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 the “more” part of them 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 “more” child to choose the chore from 2-3 pictures can increase success.

Break Down Chores

Break down the chore 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 children with learning disabilities, special needs and disorders. 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 “more” child can be very overwhelming, frustrating and full of worry. Please remember you are not alone. If you have any questions about parenting your “more” 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 with us 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.

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