Without the ability to learn life skills, children with challenges are often left searching for answers on their own
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Children with challenges can often be left at a disadvantage when learning basic life skills.
Whether it be because of exclusion from other peers or adults or not having the ability to participate in certain learning experiences, children with difficulties need focused and specialized care to help them progress.
For some kids with disabilities, learning life skills can help increase their confidence and independence at home and school. Over time, learning life skills will aid their transition into adulthood, post-education. Overall, learning life skills can help kids with difficulties live their lives to their full potential.
What are some of the most practical life skills to teach these children that are sometimes overlooked?
Life skills can refer to anything from basic life skills such as self-care––such as brushing teeth or washing your face––cooking, cleaning, money management, shopping, and transportation. Other life skills that can be applied would be what Autism Speaks calls “executive function skills” or thinking skills such as organization, planning, time management, emotional self-regulation, and decision making. It can also mean learning interpersonal skills that can be helpful in society, such as choosing friends, actively listening and engaging, and deciding on activities.
The overall categories of life skills according to Autism Speaks include:
Health and safety
Career path and employment
Peer relationships, socialization, and social communication
Community participation and personal finance
Home living skills
These skills are adopted over time and develop starting at a young age. For those with these challenges, this process may take longer, so it is crucial to start teaching them these skills as early as possible.
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How can you teach life skills to children with difficulties? Where are the skills developed?
Every child facing these challenges is different––this is why the pace at which life skills are taught will vary from child to child. For instance, one child with special needs may be able to go about their day with little support or assistance, while another may require constant support and supervision 24/7.
Life skills can be taught to these children in several settings–the home, school, and out in the community. Hands-on learning with very clear, specific instructions can be especially beneficial to a child with special needs, so having a supervisor by their side is important.
While parents can teach life skills, there are also life skill courses or programs to assist the child with learning and gaining independence. Regardless of whether their parent or an instructor is teaching, the setting in which they learn must be a natural environment that the child is familiar with and will often frequent—for example, learning cooking skills in a kitchen or learning laundry skills in the laundry room or laundromat.
Why is teaching life skills to children facing these challenges so important?
According to cerebralpalsy.org, the benefits of cultivating life skills include:
Building social, professional ties
Participating in employment
Developing responsible behaviors
Cultivating self-esteem, self-worth
Fostering interests, hobbies
Creating opportunities for independence, with or without support
Assuming an adult role in the community
It can be challenging to lead a healthy, happy, and productive lifestyle without life skills. Suppose one does not know or understand what it means to complete simple daily tasks that will improve or sustain your overall health, wellness, and quality of living. In that case, it becomes challenging to live on one’s own without the need for assistance.
People with difficulties learn from a young age how to work within their physical and intellectual capabilities. The more life skills they know, the faster they can develop and grow. Over time, with the help of their parents and teachers who encourage them to develop these lifelong skills, children with disabilities can flourish into independent, confident individuals who are satisfied with their lives.
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