What are Life Skills in Special Education?
I am in my 16th year now of teaching life skills in special education. All that time has passed, and I STILL believe this: Achieving independence is the single most important thing that we can teach to our students with special needs. I like to work towards independence by teaching my students specific life skills that they will need. Life skills instruction combines academic, daily living, occupational, and interpersonal skills to teach students how to live and work in the community. Many of our students, especially autistic students, struggle with learning certain functional life skills and need that explicit life skills instruction.
What are the 5 Essential Life Skills?
There are honestly a ton of life skills to teach. There are almost too many to even list! The essential life skills that you teach will depend on the student's age and abilities. Start by thinking about what simple daily things we NEED to do each day from a young age. Brushing our teeth and hair comes to mind first, saying hi in response when someone greets you, looking both ways before you cross the street. These are just some examples of different life skills you may need to make sure students know how to do. Learn the 5 life skills you NEED to be teaching in special education HERE.
Functional Life Skills Curriculum
Life skills should be taught in a combination of settings. Some need to be worked on at home, such as putting dishes in the sink after a meal, taking a shower, or getting dressed. Brushing teeth is an important one that students can work on in both the home and school settings. When we are able to, we also take Community-Based Instruction (CBI) trips to places in the community. Since special education classrooms are run differently than other classrooms, we can have the flexibility to teach these life skills that our students truly need to know and learn during our instruction. But where do you begin when teaching life skills? This is the main reason that the Yearlong Life Skills Curriculum for Elementary-High School Students was created.
About the Functional Life Skills Curriculum
Having a life skills curriculum to follow will make your life a TON easier as you plan out your year. In the Yearlong Functional Life Skills Curriculum Bundle, there are 12 units included in total so that you focus on one skill per month if needed. This is great for schools that are year-round or to even add to your summer teaching plans if you take on the duty of teaching the Extended School Year Program (ESY) program in your district.
12 Months of Resources:
- Personal Care & Hygiene
- Meal Planning and Prep
- Health and Nutrition
- House Keeping
- Money: The Basics
- Social Skills
- Coping with Stress
- Safety & Emergencies
- Money: Budgeting
- Vocational Skills
- Leisure time
Yearlong Life Skills Curriculum for Elementary-High School
One of the best parts about the Yearlong Life Skills Curriculum is that it can be used every single day and can take as little as only 20 minutes per day if you want it to! You can use the activities included as a whole group or in small group instruction. I would also make these Life Skills Activities into independent centers! The monthly units should span the entire month!
Centers for Teaching Life Skills
Once I began using the Yearlong Life Skills Curriculum, it was easy to integrate it into what I was already doing. I use it as a center that students rotate through in my room. This makes it very easy for both the students and the paraprofessionals to add into our daily routine. This also makes it easy for me to hand over to paraprofessionals in my room to teach when needed. 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.
FREE Life Skills Pacing Guide
I created this life skills 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! You can grab it below: