5 Benefits of Chores for Your Special Needs Child
When the dishes have piled up, the windows feature fingertip art, the floors have several days’ worth of grime, and you haven’t found time to fill the dog bowl, who can you call on to help? Your children!
Sure, doing it yourself is probably easier, quicker, and more to your liking. However, children of all ages benefit tremendously from having set chores. From sorting silverware to taking out the trash, children with special needs thrive in environments where they are given opportunities to succeed. Having chores can be just that.
Professionals who specialize in pediatrics want you to know: Learning how to do household chores is an important step toward fostering independence and instilling life skills. In other words, by designating certain tasks as the responsibility of your child, you are doing him a favor.
Here are five other ways that your child with special needs benefits from chores:
Having a Purpose
Work is critical to a person’s sense of self and purpose. It offers gratification, self-confidence, dignity, and the knowledge of having done something important– all qualities we want for our children. If we elect to not provide chores to a child simply because she is “special,” we inadvertently send the message that she is incompetent or helpless. This message will be delivered through plenty of other outlets, unfortunately, and can be detrimental to a person’s self-esteem as they transition into adulthood.
Important Life Skills
Whether we like it or not, the overwhelming majority of us have to do chores on a regular basis. We sweep floors, scrub counters, sort laundry, and clean mirrors in order to promote health and safety. Like the rest of us, children with special needs often have to learn these skills to survive in the world. Barring a significant physical or cognitive challenge that prevents your child from doing so, it’s important for kids to gain some appreciation for these tasks.
Helpful hint: Break chores into small chunks. For instance, feeding the dog can be: Fill the cup to the line. Pour into the bowl. Call the dog.
Movement and Hands-On Experience
Performing chores involves children in activities that promote movement-cued development, a necessary step toward reading and writing. Activities, including vacuuming the carpets and throwing clothes into the washing machine, build gross motor skills. Pouring juice and using a screwdriver, for instance, build fine motor skills. Childhood is a time for transformative neuroplasticity, wherein learning actually shapes the brain’s functional anatomy. Performing chores, such as matching socks and setting the table, enables a better understanding of mathematical concepts as well.
Helping hint: Model chores before expecting a child to complete them. Use hand-over-hand modeling, if necessary.
Children better understand the consequences of their actions when having designated responsibilities. If your child realizes the result of making a mess means more work later, she may reconsider her actions.
Helpful hint: Start small. If asking your child to put away laundry, request four items first and then build up to more. For many children with special needs, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and incompetent when faced with a whole load of laundry right off the bat.
Alleviate Some Stress for You
Initially, teaching your child how to complete chores can feel like more work than it’s worth. In many cases, however, kids will gain the skills and knowledge to effectively manage chores themselves so that you have one less responsibility on your plate.
Helpful hint: Create a chart that the child can mark off as they accomplish a task. If implementing a rewards system, this can be tied to the chart.
While having a child with special needs presents challenges, completing chores is feasible for most people. If your child struggles with fine or gross motor skills, pediatric therapy can be very helpful. Pediatric physical therapy builds on your child’s strengths while helping develop life-skills, such as those needed to complete chores.