Helping students gain independence is such a rewarding area of teaching and can not be emphasized enough. Having worked with students in the area of life skills and vocational skills was both rewarding and a blessing. There is nothing like seeing a student being shy about taking on a specific task, not showing any confidence in performing said task, then seeing their excitement when they accomplish it.
So many times students with needs feel that they can not step up to certain challenges that are presented to them. Many of the students I had the opportunity to work with were not given certain chances to do things because they were always done for them.
Some times it is easier for a parent to do everything for their children and it is because they love them and they are doing their best to take care of them. As the child grows, they need to be presented with certain challenges to see just what they are capable of. A parent knows best what their child's abilities and limits are, so it is important to work together with care givers and teachers to come up with ideas to challenge their child and help them to learn in various areas of their life.
One example that comes to mind is a student who would bring his lunch everyday. We would go to the cafeteria and he would ask if I would open his sandwich bag, and get everything set out for him so he could eat. I did this a time or two but felt like he was very capable of doing more for himself. I asked him one day if he ever helped pack his lunch and he said, "I don't know how." Talking with the parent we felt that this is something that could be added to his IEP and would help with following directions, provide visual aid and would help with his fine motor skill.
I took on the challenge of coming up with a way to help this student learn about packing lunches and creating a meal that he could help with to bring to school. For practice we worked with my Packing Lunches product.
As you can see in preview, there are visual cards for five days of lunches with visual and written instruction on how to put together each days sandwich and what to pack with it. The images are real so that it gives a life like experience.
The student worked with this product for a period of about two weeks and he said each time, "Making sandwiches is fun!" He made sure that he helped make his lunches from then on and actually enjoyed his lunches more because he helped mom make them!
This is just one example of many that I will share in the coming months. To see the excitement of a student accomplishing a task that we ourselves might think is a simple one is such a reward. It just takes time, patience, and most of all giving them a chance to see what they are capable of. This task provided an opportunity for him to learn and helped aid in a special bonding time spent with mom creating lunches together. :)