The 3 Big Skills Everyone with Autism Needs to Reach Their Full Potential

Today I’m going to talk about the three big skills I believe every child or adult with autism needs to reach their fullest potential

I came up with my big three skill theory shortly after my book was published back in 2007. I’m going to give you a couple of examples of kids that helped me develop this theory before I tell you what the big three skills are. 

So, first we have Joe. He was in fifth grade. He was in an autism support classroom with some general education inclusion. Joe had pretty scattered skills. He could talk, but they were working on a lot of academics including math facts, but Joe was increasingly having problem behaviors. In fact, one of my visits he was overturning a desk and he was in the hallway and he was punching a fish tank. His behavior was so out of control to the point where they were considering transferring Joe to an autism private school. But, through working with Joe we managed to get his behaviors under control and now he is doing very well. 

There’s also another boy who was 16 years old and he was in another classroom. He was not talking and we were working on things like matching and receptive identification. But, I found out pretty soon after I arrived that this 16-year-old boy was not toilet trained at all. He would walk down the hallway to the nurse’s bathroom where he would change his diaper. He was pretty compliant with that whole routine, but it just really didn’t make sense that we weren’t tackling toilet training for a child at 16 years of age.  

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So, my big three skills that I believe should be a focus and we should be striving to have in place are these: 

Big skill #1 is requesting. Requesting is the ability to ask for your wants and needs, in some way, either vocally or a picture exchange with or without a device, or sign. If you can’t get your needs and wants to be known then that is going to lead to major problems.

So, Joe, even though he had language, he wasn’t able to tell his teacher when the math became too hard. He wasn’t able to request assistance or to say things were overwhelming and so he acted out instead. So that’s big skill #1, the ability to request your wants and needs to a stranger. 

Big skill #2 is having major problem behaviors at or near zero. This includes no aggression, no property destruction, no self-injurious behavior. Those kinds of problems, just like for Joe who almost got moved to a more restrictive placement, will most likely not allow you to be included to the maximum extent, and won’t allow you to even be included in community events and workplaces eventually. 

Big skill #3 is toileting. Independent toileting is my preference meaning that you be able to do the whole routine by yourself and it would be awesome if it were not on a schedule, if possible. This 16-year-old and his parents had tried and had some limited success when he was younger, but the school staff just felt like well he’s 16 there’s nothing we can do. But there’s always something you can do because using apply behavior analysis, we can change behavior! We have to look at which behaviors are socially significant to change.  

So, when I came up with this theory probably eighth or ten years ago, I had done a blog on it and I actually got some feedback that wasn’t too positive. Some people were saying you know my child has autism plus cerebral palsy plus this and they can’t be toilet trained.  I’m just saying that whether you’re a parent or a professional, whether you have a 5-year-old, a 15-year-old or a 50-year-old, if you’re not striving to work on these three skills, requesting, problem behaviors and toileting, but you’re working on math facts or matching or whatever, you’re focusing on the wrong things. These three skills are going to give you the most bang for your buck.  If they’re not being worked on and we’re having major problem behaviors, if the child’s not requesting readily throughout the day, if the child’s not toilet training, then we as a team, professional or parent, home or school, owe it to these kids to really focus on these three big skills first. 

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So, those are my thoughts. I hope you enjoyed this video blog. If you did, leave me a comment. Share this video blog and for more information on how you can get started with either a new ABA program or revamping an ABA program I’d love it if you would download my free three-step guide. It’s brand new and it will help you turn things around, whether you are a parent just starting out or a seasoned professional. So click the link right in the description. Tell your friends and other professionals to join our mission to turn things around for two million kids by 2020. 

Hope you enjoyed this blog and I will see you next week.