Daily Living Skills at Home One Step at a Time
Learning fundamental daily living skills such as self-care, personal hygiene, laundry, cooking, and cleaning can help prepare special needs children for future adult situations in the home, community, and workplace.
According to the Organization for Autism Research, daily living skills are particularly important for those diagnosed on the autism spectrum, as they include “tasks that are seen by most as intuitive,” but may take a bit more time for a special needs child to learn.
These learning challenges may seem daunting to parents who might not feel qualified to teach daily living skills, but there are some techniques anyone can use at home that will have a big impact. While individual therapy with a professional is extremely beneficial, as a parent you are in a position to build these teaching tools into your daily activities at home every day, reinforcing the skills until they are second nature to the child. Start early and practice as often as possible so that your child will develop the abilities they need for independence in adulthood.
Learning Daily Living Skills Step by Step
When teaching daily living skills, it helps to divide each skill into smaller tasks and then develop a sequence of behaviors for the child to follow according to their individual needs and abilities. Kids should learn and practice each separate task in sequence until they have mastered the step-by-step plan for each skill. Each daily life skill may include a long list of several discrete steps to learn, memorize, and perform.
For example, a tooth-brushing sequence might begin like this:
- Pick up toothpaste.
- Open toothpaste.
- Put down cap.
- Pick up toothbrush.
- Squeeze toothpaste onto the toothbrush.
The steps are taught in their natural order, with assistance for any steps that can’t be completed independently. After the first step is completed, then prompt the child for the next step. Prompts can be physical shadowing or “hand-over-hand” to help the child perform the movement successfully, or verbal cues or gestures to jog the child’s memory of the next step. Gradually, the prompts become more subtle until the child has memorized and mastered the steps independently. Positive reinforcement happens after each correctly performed step. In this way, your child will eventually learn to perform all the steps independently and master the life skill.
From being responsible for their own belongings to preparing meals, learning and practicing daily living skills can help kids gain confidence and feel a greater sense of control. The step-by-step sequence of all these skills can be utilized and practiced regularly at home with parents. The expectation is that these daily living skills will support the special needs child throughout life and help foster a greater level of independence in adulthood. Your reinforcement of the skills can make all the difference.
Request a Tour of The Gateway School
Since 1980, RKS Associates has been a leader in providing the needs of special education students and helping children grow to their fullest potential. Each of our schools seeks to empower each student with skills for life, work, and recreation; we believe that every individual possesses the dignity and potential to contribute to a better world.
As part of the RKS Associates Network of schools in New Jersey, the goal at the Gateway School is to assist all students in becoming as independent as possible and help them get ready for the future. Located in Carteret, NJ, we serve individuals throughout Central and Northern New Jersey. Contact us at our main office at 732.541.4400 with any questions or schedule a private tour of the Gateway School today.
Chris Hoye, Principal-The Gateway School of Carteret, NJ