Independence Day is celebrated in July. At Shaping Change, we want to not only celebrate independence but work to build independence. While we do, help patients gain independence through the services we provide, our emphasis for July is to promote, build, and teach independence. Let’s focus more on independence by learning what we can do to help individuals gain independence at home.
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Why Is Independence Important?
Independence is critical to build self-help skills, build confidence, and boost self-esteem. Having independence gives us all a sense of pride and control of our lives, regardless of age. It can also increase motivation, awareness, and resilience.
As a parent, it may be hard to let go and allow your child to be independent, especially if allowing them to do something by themselves might make a mess, take longer, or require some patience and teaching. But it is important to provide those opportunities to foster and promote independence to build all the skills previously mentioned.
How Can We Teach Independence?
To teach independence we need to promote it in as many areas and with as many skills as possible. We want to focus on promoting independence with skills already learned and as we teach new skills. Doing this can also foster generalization, which is when acquired skills are showed using different materials, in various settings, and with multiple people.
For example, if an individual has learned colors, you can build independence in self-help skills and activities of daily living (ADLs) by teaching them to sort their clothes in the hamper. If an individual can sort, you can promote independence by asking them to sort silverware, clothes, and other items around the house.
When we assist individuals in learning new skills, we want to fade and reduce that assistance as the individual learns what to do. This can help avoid prompt dependency and foster independence.
For example, if you are teaching the individual to wash their hands, you might need to start by using hand-over-hand assistance, where you take their hands and help through the steps of washing their hands. You can combine this with a visual task strip so the individual can see the steps. As the individual completes some of the steps alone, you should fade out the hand-over-hand and maybe only point to the visual task strip for reference (this will depend on the individual’s skill and ability). Continue fading until the individual can wash their hands independently.
Remember, visuals can remain and can be a helpful tool for independence. We all use them!