Why Teach Functional Skills? - The Gateway School
functional life skills brushing teeth

Why Teach Functional Skills?

functional life skills brushing teeth

Functional skills instruction can help special needs children successfully navigate their personal and educational environments. These are the skills that if not done by an individual independently, others will have to do for him or her. Giving the child lots of opportunities to practice and increase their mastery of functional skills can increase a child’s ability to achieve the independence essential for a successful transition into adulthood. 

Functional skills are the skills necessary for daily living and establishing quality of life as successful and independent adults.

They may include the following skills:

  • Community access
  • Community involvement
  • Daily living
  • Independent living
  • Literacy
  • Personal finance
  • Self-determination.
  • Social skills
  • Transition to adulthood
  • Transportation
  • Vocational education

Children with special needs often struggle to learn functional skills and can benefit from specific instruction in skills such as:

  • Communication – using words, gestures, or pictures to express wants and needs, including how to say “NO”
  • Financial skills - counting and spending money, budgeting
  • Literacy - reading and writing
  • Safety – knowing what to do in an accident, or in case of a fire, or when encountering a stranger
  • Self-care – toileting, bathing, and other health and hygiene issues
  • Self-determination - choosing personal preferences, solving personal problems, setting goals, and regulating emotions and behaviors
  • Social skills - managing relationships and social interactions
  • Vocational skills – work skills needed to gain and sustain employment

While all of these functional skills are important, families and teachers may need to select skills that are meaningful to the individual, distinguishing between skills that are necessary and skills that are helpful. It is certainly helpful for a child to learn how to read, but if he or she can’t read, it is still necessary to teach the child to recognize community signs like “Exit” or “Rest Room.”

Did you know?

According to the Center for Autism Research, some skills can be taught with 80% mastery and still be functional. Brushing teeth to 80% mastery may be appropriate since the child brushes at least twice per day. There are several safe opportunities to master the skill. However, safety skills should be taught to 100 per cent mastery due to associated risks. Where the skills cannot be mastered 100 per cent, adaptations will be needed. For example, a nonverbal child could carry a laminated identification card with medical information in case of emergency.

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