Using a Life Skills Curriculum in the Special Education Classroom
Using life skills curriculum for special education

I have been teaching special education for the past 15 years and have often heard teachers not wanting to teach life skills explicitly.  Achieving independence is the single most important thing that we can teach to students with special needs.  

Neurotypical students learn basic functional life skills by imitating their peers, teachers, and other people in their lives.  Many of our students, especially autistic students, struggle with these imitation skills and need that explicit life skills instruction. 


Teach Life Skills Explicitly

It is never too early to start introducing functional life skills to your students.  Remember, this is definitely NOT all that you need to be teaching.  Academic skills are still very important and should be taught every day.

After struggling for a long time on how and what to teach, I finally created materials from scratch on how to teach basic functional life skills.  I wanted a way to integrate these basic life skills into what I was already teaching.  I decided to divide the life skills into 12 different categories that I could teach over the course of 12 months.

12 months of resources

  1. Personal Care & Hygiene
  2. Meal Planning and Prep
  3. Health and Nutrition
  4. House Keeping
  5. Money: The Basics
  6. Social Skills
  7. Coping with Stress
  8. Safety & Emergencies
  9. Money: Budgeting
  10. Vocational Skills
  11. Traveling
  12. Leisure time
traveling and transportation unit for functional life skills

Year Long Life Skills Curriculum

I wanted to create a year-long curriculum that could be used every single day of the school year, that could take as little as 20 minutes of the school day, but could actually be extended for longer amounts of time if needed. 
Once I had everything prepped and ready to go, it was easy to integrate into what I was already doing.  I turned it into a center that they would have to rotate through.  This made it very easy for both the students and the paraprofessionals.  
Because the units all have the same format, students learned the expectations of the assignments and began doing a lot of the work without support.
I created this curriculum so that you can go in any order that is needed during the month, but I have included this free Life Skills Pacing guide to help you plan for the entire year.
Every week has a different theme and the units are meant to last the entire month.  I like to start off the year using the Personal Care and Hygiene unit, especially after going through a worldwide pandemic.
You can try out this mini-unit here Personal Care & Hygiene unit.

Functional Life Skills Curriculum

I like to store my units in these large scrapbook cases!  That fits everything in there, plus there is room for me to add extra things like real money or toothbrushes, depending on which unit it is!

You can grab the entire functional life skills curriculum in my TpT shop!

What does each unit come with?

Here is what will be included in each monthly unit:

  • lesson guidelines
  • blank monthly and weekly at a glance
  • sample IEP goals to match the content
  • related worksheets (including cut and paste activities)
  • adapted books and social stories
  • differentiated assessments
  • parent letters
  • task boxes
  • file folder games
  • visual aids
  • student awards for mastery
  • data tracking sheets
  • posters
  • craftivity (related crafts and writing activity) – available in some units
  • and more!


Task Boxes for Life Skills Curriculum

My favorite part of all of these units in this curriculum is all the task boxes that you get.  I am obsessed with using them in my independent work systems!  

They are so easy to store and use and my students think they are playing games but they are learning.

If you don't follow me on Instagram, you can do that here. I will be sharing videos about each unit as they come out in my stories, or check out my story highlights!

If you are not subscribed to my email list, you can do that here. I will be sending out emails as each unit is released and offering them at HALF OFF for the first 24 hours to those that get the email!!

Don't forget, that you can purchase each of these units separately, however, you will be missing out on the 30% discount if you purchase the bundle.


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I am a High School, self-contained Autism teacher from Central New York, who is passionate about individualizing student learning. I am a mommy of three, lover of all things Disney, married to my best friend and addicted to chocolate!! I hope that you find great ideas and inspiration here, so welcome!!

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