Independence is the ultimate goal for the majority of individuals in our society. For many, this goal is attained sometime between 18 to 30 years of age. However, for other individuals, such as those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), full independence may never be attained; the aim then becomes to minimize the dependency on caregivers and providers.
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According to Shattuch, Narendorf, Cooper, Sterzing, Wagner and Taylor (2012), about 80% of adults with autism live at home and only 6% have paid jobs. These statistics are alarming, clearly indicating that greater efforts are needed to design and use effective interventions that teach long-lasting functional daily living skills to individuals with disabilities.
Functional living skills are those necessary to be an independent and productive individual in society (Hong, Davis, Neely, Ganz, Morin, Ninci, Boles, 2017); they include a variety of skills, from toileting and personal care to grocery shopping, banking and social skills (Ayres, Mechling, & Sansosti, 2013). Given some of the core characteristics of ASD, such as repetitive and stereotypic behaviors, deficits in language and communication skills, and poor attending skills, individuals with autism heavily depend on others to accomplish daily living skills (Hong et al., 2017). According to Hume, Loftin, and Lantz (2009) there are three particular factors of ASD that hinder the acquisition and maintenance of skills: prompt dependence, initiation, and generalization of skills.
Prompt dependence refers to learners relying on their instructors or caregivers to help them complete a task (even after they have already learned the task) (Mays & Heflin, 2011). Initiation refers to the lack of motivation to initiate different tasks, such as chores, homework or even social interactions and, again, reliance on others to get started; Last, generalization refers to the individual’s ability to demonstrate learned skills with untrained stimuli and people, as well as in untrained settings (Hume et al., 2009).
Hume et al. (2009) also reviewed three intervention strategies that have been effective in increasing independence in individuals with autism: Self- monitoring, individual work systems and video- modeling. These interventions are believed to be successful because they all focus on shifting stimulus control from continuous adult prompts during tasks to alternative stimuli.
In self-monitoring, the individual learns to discriminate and record the occurrence or absence of a particular target behavior. In this intervention, the stimulus control remains within the individual; that is, the learner is the one who attends to his own behavior and determines if the behavior meets the requirement for reinforcement. When teaching self-monitoring skills (i.e., ability to monitor one’s own behavior) in individuals with autism, four steps are followed: (1) creating an operational definition for the target behavior, (2) determining reinforcers, (3) choosing a self-management method or device,
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