The more I was getting to know Carlos and his family, the more confused I became about his abilities academically, socially, and at home. My colleagues and I were working very hard to highlight his abilities in class by giving him opportunities to share his music and stories in class. In addition, we were giving him opportunities to share his knowledge and understanding of academic tasks orally (which is a strength of his).
He was developing some independence in class, however required a lot of attention from a teacher in order to follow through with any academic tasks. I also felt that it was difficult for him to develop independent work habits at school, if he was required to do very little for himself at home. His mother and family were very open to working together to help Carlos develop independence, but they have been enabling his dependence for years at home and felt stuck in their own routines.
I decided to adapt an independence survey I gave one of my classes a couple of years ago to fit Carlos and his routines at home.
I had Carlos fill out the survey privately. He completed the survey, saying that he was independent at most things at home.
After looking at the survey, I had a very difficult conversation with him about his independence at home. It was very challenging for Carlos to admit that he does not do every day things for himself at home. I gave him the opportunity to choose one thing he wanted to work on at home. He chose brushing his teeth. That afternoon, we met with his mother to talk about steps of teaching him to brush his teeth independently. We decided to work with him at school on brushing his teeth in the nurse’s office for a couple of weeks and then he could use what he has learned at home.
I went out that weekend and bought a toothbrush and toothpaste. The next Monday, my co-teacher and I went to the nurse’s office with Carlos and went through the steps of brushing his teeth, told him to give it a shot, and we would coach him through the process. After a minute of awkwardness with getting the toothpaste on the toothbrush, Carlos demonstrated that he is capable of brushing his teeth independently. We practiced for about a week and then met with his mother again. We all celebrated the fact that he can do this independently and helped his mother to set up routines and structures to help him brush his teeth independently at home. After checking in a couple of weeks later, mom reported that he was doing more things at home independently by using post-it notes and checklists at home.
I am not sure how much has improved at home, however this experience proved to Carlos, his mother, my co-teacher, and myself that he has many abilities and needs to develop independence at home, especially because he was getting older.