Age-by-age healthy habits for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – CHOC

Age-related developmental changes in a child’s life may poise new questions and bring new challenges for parents to navigate. And if a child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), parents may have to navigate their development even more carefully.

Whatever the age your child may be, the applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapists at the Thompson Autism Center at CHOC have mapped out some habits to consider and resources to utilize on your child’s journey with autism.  

In this article, they listed some examples of activities you can do with your child to encourage healthy habits across developmental periods.

Building healthy habits for preschool-age children with autism

  • Assign simple chores like separating laundry by color and putting away household items.
  • Build independence in small ways like giving choices when available, adding an ingredient to a meal or assisting in taking care of pets.
  • Actively engage in community activities like at the YMCA, farmer’s markets or volunteer groups.
  • Encourage the development of individual skills, talents and interests.
  • Read books that explore various careers.

Building healthy habits for elementary school-age children with autism

Building healthy habits for preteens with autism

  • Encourage learning about and accepting disability.
  • Ensure that your child understands medications if they are required to take them.
  • Encourage friendships and social skills.
  • Learn about social media safety through CHOC’s social media safety tips.
  • Slowly increase freedom with time with friends and let them build their own schedules.
  • Practice independent living skills through household tasks and preparing meals.

Building healthy habits for teens with autism

Building healthy habits for young adults with autism

Career development:

  • Research jobs or research education for jobs of your child’s interest.
  • Access transition planning services at your child’s school. Build a transition planning portfolio with transition assessments.
  • Develop pre-employment skills:
    • Explore or encourage your child to apply for paid and unpaid apprenticeships and internships.
    • Help your child complete career certificates needed for career advancement.
    • Make informed career/ training choices based on your child’s interests and employment options (e.g., labor market availability). Avoid pursuing obsolete jobs.

What parents/guardians should consider:

  • Secure your child’s driver’s license, and/or develop a transportation or mobility plan to access community resources.
  • Practice benefits planning, where applicable. You may want to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), if appropriate.
  • Look into and apply for conservatorship opportunities, if applicable. Visit The Superior Court of California – County of Orange for more information.
  • Ensure that your child maintains a safe social media presence.

Young adult employment/career opportunities and resource pages:

For more assistance, visit The Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT), an international resource for all things related to autism spectrum disorder.

This non-exhaustive list was made in collaboration with other professional staff at the Thompson Autism Center at CHOC with examples and links to helpful resources to utilize along the way.

Learn more about the Thompson Autism Center at CHOC

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