Teaching Life Skills for Independent Living: Part 1

Claire Smyth by Claire Smyth Additional Needs

Claire Smyth

Claire Smyth

It was commonly believed that children with intellectual disabilities were not capable of learning any useful life skills, let alone academics.

Parents were persuaded by doctors to abandon their special babies into institutionalized living.

They were deceived into believing that the experts and professionals who staffed the institutions were better equipped to provide their children with the best treatments and quality therapies.

Shockingly, in reality what most often took place at the institutions was nothing short of criminal.

The sweet, precious children were not educated or treated at all, neither did they receive any therapies, unless you count electroshock therapy!

They were isolated from society, neglected and even dreadfully abused and horrifyingly tortured.

Thankfully, in this day and age, most loving parents and caring professionals agree that children born with disabilities belong living with the families that love them.

They believe that they are worthy of love and of being treated with kindness, dignity and respect.

My gratitude goes out to the disability rights pioneers who have gone before us, laboring with perseverance and dedication, winning the right for the disabled to receive a free and appropriate education and, also, to have access to all aspects of community living.

It is with this spirit of love, dignity, respect, inclusion, and the belief that all people with disabilities have the right to be taught and are capable of learning, that I have put together this list.

A few basic goals to consider when working on independent living skills with children and adults who have disabilities:

I. Eating skills

  • Drinking from a cup
  • Using a spoon
  • Using a fork
  • Using a knife
II. Toilet Training

III. Dressing skills

  • Removing pants
  • Putting on pants
  • Putting on socks
  • Putting on a shirt
  • Putting on shoes
  • Tying shoes
  • Zipping Buttoning
IV. Washing Up Skills
  • Drying hands
  • Washing hands
  • Washing Face
  • Brushing teeth
  • Bathing and/or showering
  • Brushing hair
  • Washing hair
V. Basic Cleaning Skills
  • Making bed
  • Changing the bed
  • Sweeping
  • Vacuuming
  • Doing laundry
  • Cleaning bathroom
VI. Food Prep Skills
  • Making sandwiches
  • Preparing snacks
  • Using a microwave
  • Using a stove
  • Using an oven
  • Washing dishes
VII. Academic Skills
  • Reading basic, survival, sight words
  • Telling time
  • Using Money
You can read part two of Teaching Life Skills for Independent Living here.


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