Homework for Mom and Dad
When day habilitation services are contracted for an individual, it is not as if all involvement of family members or caregivers can be just turned over to the staff and then they are expected to be solely responsible for the successes and failures of the individual they are there to support. Involvement of family, guardians and caregivers is essential to the success of a skill to be learned and applied by the individual.
After finally getting day hab services for Cody started, it was important for us to get to know the staff and to find out exactly what kind of curriculum they intended to employ. And they needed help from us as well. It was important to them to know Cody’s likes and dislikes, his personality traits that could be used as tools to incorporate into their plan to get the best results, and the areas that we felt needed the most immediate attention.
The first skills we wanted to see addressed were simple, everyday life skills that would help Cody begin to learn how to be more independent, including safety skills to use when in out in the community. We focused on household chores, simple meal preparation, and community integration activities. We wanted him to learn to go to restaurants and order and pay for his own meal. To go to the store to purchase specific items and correctly pay the cashier. To look both ways when crossing the street. We asked that support staff make a structured plan and then leave us notes about what they did during the day on how well Cody did and what kind of behaviors he had. But on days the staff was not there, we were expected to continue working on the skills they had worked on during the week.
There are many ways in which we help and encourage Cody to continue to practice the things he works to learn with his staff. And it’s really not that difficult. They are the same things that most of us never give a second thought. For instance, when we visit a restaurant, we encourage Cody to greet the staff who comes to take our order. Cody must order his own meal from the menu. If he needs assistance we are there for him. But we encourage him to do as much as he can on his own. When we are done, we work to explain to him what leaving a tip is about. Then we give Cody the bill, show him where the total is, then show him how much money we will need. When it comes time to actually pay we may give Cody the money and have him pay the cashier.
We also work to instill in Cody appropriate behavior to have in a restaurant. We work with him about using a proper voice tone, polite manners when speaking to the staff and when eating, and how to ask where the restrooms are. Then there is watching for moving vehicles when walking from the car to the restaurant and vice versa.
There are also ways we can work on these very skills right at home. One of the things Bill did was to buy a play money set. You can find a one at variety stores, toy stores or educational stores. Cody’s looks like a cash register drawer. It has pennies through quarters as well as bills in denominations of ones, fives, tens and twenties. We first help him to identify each coin and then each type of bill. We work with him to teach him how much money that is. Math has always been a challenge for Cody, so it continues to be an ongoing process which both requires our patience and his.
Knowing when the learning experience is no longer viable is also crucial to an individual’s success. We can tell that when Cody can no longer sit still, he is gazing is out of the window or off in another direction that distractions are getting the best of him and aggravation is setting in. This means he is losing all focus on the task at hand. Pushing him to continue working on a task beyond this point would serve no good purpose. In fact, it may result in a complete meltdown due to building frustration—on Cody’s part, but also in my husband and me. This is the time when we need to stop these life lessons for the day. So we do our best to end on a good note, praise him for what he has done well and then begin fresh again tomorrow.