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The Power of Self-Monitoring: How It Can Improve My Child's Independence Skills

Brushing teeth, dressing, bathing and meal times can be difficult. Do you find yourself resorting to bribery, yelling, threats and negative consequences to get your child to cooperate?

Does this end in a whole heap of frustration for everyone?

Today I am discussing the use of self-monitoring systems to help your child develop internal motivation and self-awareness to improve their independence skills.

Using self-management to improve and increase positive behaviors has been researched since the 1960’s. Research since the 1970's has shown highly effective results when a social accountability element is used. We know that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects individuals in various ways, including delays in executive functioning skills. Executive functioning relates to an individual's ability to organize and monitor their thoughts and actions to carry out a task.

A father guides his daughter to write in a notebook.

It is not unusual for children to resist participating in self-care and self-management tasks, such as personal hygiene, time management, and organization. This is not surprising when we think about the fact that usually these tasks require our children to sustain their attention on a task that is not particularly exciting. These tasks may take a high amount of cognitive and physical effort especially when it comes to figuring our the steps involved and putting the physical effort into gross and fine motor coordination. Ultimately, the high level of effort required and lack of a preferred outcome for your child, means they are not really motivated to do these tasks at all.

Understanding Self-Monitoring Systems

Self-monitoring systems are structured and systematic approaches that enable individuals to track and assess their own behavior and progress toward a specific goal. These systems provide a visual and concrete way for children (especially our neurodiverse kiddo's) to understand their actions and make improvements over time.

Implementing Self-Monitoring Systems

Here are some practical steps to implement self-monitoring systems for self-care skills in individuals with ASD:

  1. Assessment: Determine what skill or skills you will focus on.

  2. Data Sheet: Choose how you and your child will track tasks that are being completed. Click here for a complimentary copy of the data sheet I've used. You can even customize it!

  3. Determine Reinforcers: Have your child decide what they would like to earn once they have reached their points goal. Remember that they should earn a bigger and better reward for more points. The reinforcement doesn't have to be a huge thing, it could be providing extra of something or access to something special they usually get.

  4. Teach Self-reflection: After each task have a quick reflection on if your child did it. Avoid getting into an argument about this and simply mark the sheet and move on. If your child is criticizing themself, remind them that it's okay and they can try for the next task or try again tomorrow. Try not to dwell on the situation. If the child completes the task ensure to provide positive praise and verbal encouragement.

    1. If you and your child agree that the task has been completed, the child earns 2 points.

    2. If you and your child both agree that the task was not completed, the child earns 1 point. This is because we want to still give some reinforcement to your child for having an honest and accurate observation of their own behavior.

    3. If you and your child disagree, your child earns 0 points.

  5. Feedback and Support: Provide regular feedback and support as the individual works toward their goals. Adjust the self-monitoring system as needed to ensure it remains effective. This might include changing the number of points that need to be earned, changing the rewards that the child receives and adjusting the skills they are working on.

Self-monitoring systems are valuable tools for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder to develop essential self-care skills. By promoting independence, providing visual feedback, and allowing for personalization, these systems empower neurodiverse individuals to become autonomous and lead more fulfilling lives. With patience, guidance, and the right tools, you can guide your child through their self-care journey, building the skills they need to reach their full potential!

A great resource that I have recently learned about is "The Self & Match System: Systematic Use of Self-Monitoring as a Behavioral Intervention" by Jamie S Slater and Katherine M Croce. To learn more about this system you can go to

If you would like to receive the Microsoft Word version of the complimentary Self-Monitoring Data Sheet, email us at


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