What is ‘Readiness’ in Children With Autism?

Frustrated because your child with autism isn’t mastering key skills? Learn why they need to build readiness skills first, from an expert at Spark Center for Autism.

Your child with autism is in ABA therapy and, step by step, you’re seeing progress. But they haven’t learned some essential life skills you want them to learn — such as getting dressed and using the toilet. Why?

Getting dressed may not seem like such a difficult task. But many skills are needed to dress, says Reena Naami-Dier, BCBA and owner of Spark Center for Autism, an early intervention ABA center in Farmington Hills.

“Dressing requires fine motor skills, gross motor skills, the ability to receptively identify different articles of clothing and their uses, and imitation skills,” she says. Until your child has these fundamental skills, they’re not necessarily able to carry out this morning task.

Your child’s ABA therapy team is likely working on these “readiness skills,” says Naami-Dier. They lay the foundation for success in many other tasks, including daily living skills like dressing and toileting.

Readiness in your child with autism, explained

Readiness skills are building blocks. With readiness skills, your child is more likely to be able to learn more complex tasks.

“Readiness skills can be targeted for adaptive living skills like toileting, dressing, eating and more, school readiness skills, and even social-emotional skills,” Naami-Dier explains. “Readiness skills can look different for each individual, but there are generally a few key skills that providers and educators may look for when determining appropriate goals and placement for a child.”

When your child develops these key skills, they’re inching closer to meeting those bigger goals.

“Having prerequisite skills can help children with autism develop more confidence. If they have mastered the initial steps, they are more likely to have success with more complex skills that utilize those prerequisites. This can help make learning much less overwhelming,” she says.

They’re also more likely to generalize, or carry skills from one situation to another. “This can open the door to many other positive outcomes,” she adds.

When it seems like your BCBA is veering away from your ultimate goals

Maybe it seems like your child’s therapy team is skirting around the skills you want your child to have, says Naami-Dier. “It may also seem like progress may not be occurring. But it is important for parents to understand that learning those skills will ultimately lead to more progress, and more growth,” she says.

The skills a child may need to use the toilet begin with:

  • The ability to follow simple, one-step instructions
  • Fine motor skills to pick up small objects
  • Imitating two-step responses

There may be others, too. They don’t seem to be related to using the toilet. But, says Naami-Dier, they all play an important role in a child’s ability to master the routine of toileting.

Each one is important for many other tasks in your child’s life, too.

“If we were to solely focus on teaching one specific skill, for example, going to the bathroom, rather than the prerequisite skills related to that skill, we would likely not see success in other areas. And, your child may only learn those skills in the context of that routine,” she says.

How you can help your child with autism build readiness

Your child can learn skills faster with your help. Here are some suggestions from Naami-Dier on how you can help build readiness skills:

  • Commit to practicing and working on basic skills.
  • Use positive reinforcement and encouragement.
  • Work with your ABA provider to learn the goals that will act as building blocks.
  • Recognize the reason your provider is working on these readiness skills.
  • Watch for the subtle changes and celebrate the small wins!

Talk with your child’s BCBA to learn more about how you can help build success with your child. Be sure to always ask questions about concepts and practices that you don’t understand.

Expertise brought to you by Spark Center for Autism. Learn more at sparkcenterforautism.com.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Metro Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.


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