Fostering independence is a bit tricky with a child with special needs. You can tell that Gess really desires to have the same independence that her peers have. Our current focus has been on giving her more unsupervised outside play time. Since we have a fenced in back yard that has a lock out of her reach, we are able to do this without too much fear of her wandering off. I must admit I am still constantly peeking out to be sure that she is OK, but it's the most independent she has been and she truly loves it.
Our main concern with giving Gess the freedom is that she learn to use it responsibly. Gess had finally quit trying to wander outside without permission until we introduced letting her play outside alone. Now she was again trying to leave the house without telling us. However, this time she was not trying to simply "wander" off, she was just trying to do what we sometimes gave her permission to. So to address this we reviewed safety rules for playing outside alone, taught her to ask first before going out, and implemented visual cues to make sure she did not forget.
To review the importance of staying in the yard (in case the fence is ever not locked) we re-watched the video Stay in the Yard from Do2Learn Education Resources. I shared this website with you a long time ago in my blog Computer Time: Do 2 Learn which goes to show you that is a resource you will continue to use for some time.
So now we talk about being "safe" when you go outside and you do that by staying in the yard. Then we wanted to remind her to ask before going out the door. To do this I made a sign that says, "Did you ask for permission?" Well, that did not work because she would ask me for permission but when I said no, she still went out the door! I had to be very specific so I added "Did Mom or Dad say yes or no?"
I color coded some of the words in the sign and made the words "ask" and "no" red and the word "yes" green. This is to remind her to either stop or go according to the answer. Then we followed that up with two traffic light signs; a red stop one and a green go one. I velcroed the stop sign to the door and put the go one out of reach.
Now, when we say yes, we give her the "go" sign to put up. Without the go sign she can not go outside alone.
Of course, I again emphasize the go sign must be out of reach. She would just change it herself if she had the ability to, I saw her try it once! I also had to train her that she could come back in whenever she wanted to as well. With the screen door shutting her outside at first she felt like she had to stay. She would sit at the door and holler for me when she wanted to come back in. Now I always remind her that she can come back in whenever she wants. When she is in to stay we let her help put the stop sign back up so that she knows she can not go back out again without asking. This has worked great. Gess never goes outside alone when the stop sign is up. It was really a simple plan that has given us all more freedom to enjoy.