Teaching a Child with Autism To Do Chores


Not all parents have their children do chores and those that do all have various ways of handling them. What works for one family may not work for another family. When I was growing up I had various small chores to accomplish during the week but Saturday morning was designated as cleaning day, which included changing beds, vacuuming and dusting.

The rule was – No Saturday morning cartoons until ALL chores were completed and  passed inspection. This motivated me to get things done quickly because the thought of no Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry was unthinkable to me but my sister couldn’t care less.

How do you get your child to do chores around the house?

  1. I use a job jar that my child picks from.
  2. I give my child a conditional allowance or rewards.
  3. I coerce my child with threats and loss of privileges.
  4. I pre-teach each chore and do it with my child before assigning responsibility.

There is no ‘one way’ to motivate a child to do their assigned chores and parents need to find the best approach for each child. But before a parent can motivate a child to do chores, the child needs to understand what is expected of him or her. If a child doesn’t understand the ‘who, what, when, where, and how’ behind a chore it won’t mean much to him or her and the motivation will be lacking.

Any of the answers to the multiple-choice question above may work for your child but the answer with the best chance of success is D. Most children, not just those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, need direct teaching on how to approach and tackle a chore.

Just as a grocery store manager has to train his employees and teach them how to stock shelves, clean equipment or run a cash register, children with Autism have to be taught clearly and specifically how to do things. It is extremely important to teach each chore thoroughly before you can expect  satisfactory results and accept that it will take much repetition before you get the exact outcome you desire.

Developing an attitude that tolerates lower expectations in the beginning while maintaining a goal for steady improvement is an important mindset adjustment to make. This article, Promoting Independence in My ASD Child with Chores, provides many useful strategies and tips that will guide you to shift the way you think about chores in order to maximize successful outcomes. 

When you are ready to tackle the assignment of chores to your children here are some things to keep in mind for a stress free and enjoyable experience for all.

– Begin at your child’s level.  It is very important to identify your child’s level of ability when it comes to teaching her a new chore.  If you want your child to experience success at a task in order to motivate her to repeat it, being realistic about where to start can make all the difference. Start with something you know she will be successful at and slowly increase the level of difficulty as you go.

– Communicate clearly. Is your child verbal or non-verbal? How best does he communicate? Will schedules or lists, whether in picture or text format, be useful? It is important to do whatever you need to in order to appeal to the unique way your child’s mind works. Children on the Autism spectrum tend to be very concrete and literal thinkers, therefore seeing or hearing a task broken down into very small steps with explicit instructions will increase comprehension and the likelihood that the chore will be accomplished the way you want.

– Go slow and be patient. Repetition is the key to mastering any task, regardless of age or ability. Taking the time now to make sure  your child acquires the necessary muscle memory for the task will pay off in the long run. Muscle memory is a term for memorizing a procedure by imprinting a specific gross or fine motor task to memory through constant repetition. There are many everyday work or play related activities that are learned in this manner, such as riding a bike, playing a musical instrument, or sweeping a floor. With lots of practice these things become so automatic they do not require much thought.

– Praise effort. Children who are praised for their intelligence only, instead of the effort they put into an activity or chore, become hyper focused on results and do not come to see the process of completing the task as important. Should they fail at a task where successful accomplishment has been the only thing emphasized, they are less likely to try again. They may attribute their failure to a lack of ability, something they believe they can’t change. But giving a child specific praise for the energy they expend on a task helps them see themselves as in control of their success.

– Acknowledge the benefits. Teaching children to do chores, however simple or intricate they may be, helps them feel good about themselves when they see the tangible results. Seeing the fruits of their labor may not strike them as wonderful at first but continued appreciation and recognition of a job well done will help them feel proud and build a positive sense of self. A sense of teamwork is another benefit from doing chores that children will realize as they recognize their contribution to the family.

All in all, teaching a child to do chores is a very important way to make any child more independent – something we all want our children to be.


We would love to hear your stories. What has your experience been when assigning chores to your child ?


  1. Bob Davis says:

    I continue to try to stay on task with the cleaning with my son helping and taking on the responsiblitiy of cleaning his bedroom on a daily basis. He knows what to do but fails to see that his room needs to be picked up after an evening of magazine streading. I constantly have to put the pickup before bedtime into the ritual of going to bed. He sometimes gives me resistance as a way to delay going to bed. He is smart enough to realize he can use the cleaning ritual as a vice or should I say as a protest toward my insistance of going to bed A nice way of saying it is a fight to that end but I always make sure I win. When can I exspect if ever for him to take hold or what signs should I look for so that I may reward and praise him of his efforts?

  2. Connie says:

    Bob – You are smart to include this in the bedtime ritual but as long as you see it as a fight, something you win at, it will continue to be a battle. He needs to be internally motivated and battles don’t motivate children. Children can sense our attitudes quite well and your son sounds very smart indeed.
    If your goal is to have the magazines picked up before bed and it gets done, focus on the fact that it was completed and find something to praise him about. Effort is always a good one but here are some other examples:
    “I like the way you stacked the pile so neatly.” or “You only complained once this time – I appreciate that.” or “That was faster than last night. You are getting good at this.” Focus on any tiny little piece of positive you can find and praise him for it – this is what will motivate him. Forget about the fact that it did not get done without some resistance or within your timeframe or. . . Things will improve when you truly focus on the positive.
    If you want to iron out the bugs or have more questions, I would be happy to have you take advantage of my free phone consultation – just click the phone graphic on my blog or any page of my website and then choose a time slot. Good luck and let me know how things turn out.

  3. Karen abrams says:

    How to make 17 year old get back in school. Hides everything that has to do with school. To big to pick up to put on bus.

  4. Connie says:

    Ah, this is a dilemma. Exhaust every way possible to get into his world and see things from his perspective so you can find the real source of resistance. In coaching parents through similar back-to-school challenges we often discovery an anxiety that was not readily apparent. Let me know if you want help to dig deeper. There IS an answer, so don’t give up.

  5. Billie says:

    Hey everyone!
    I just recently became a nanny to a boy with autism and I was wondering the best way to teach him a bit more responsibility. His mom doesn’t really require much of him or his other siblings, I’ve noticed, when it comes to chores around the house. I think it would be beneficial for him (and his siblings) to learn how to do some tasks around the house. His mom isn’t really concerned with what I do, but I really want them all to become more responsible and less… Well… spoiled! The kids are all already older than the age of 10 so they are pretty set in their ways. If anyone has some good suggestions I would really appreciate it so much!

  6. Connie says:

    Find out what motivates each one of them. Without motivation it will be difficult to get them to do a chore, especially if mom does not see it as important. Start with small chores they can experience immediate success with. Make sure you pre teach them to do the job with clear communication and demonstration, and use charts and visuals if necessary. Help them develop pride in their accomplishment by praising them as the article suggests. If all the tips mentioned in my article do not work for you, call me for a 15-min free consultation so I can help you problem solve your unique situation. You are giving these children a wonderful gift by helping them become more independent through chores!

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