Life skills are one of the most important skills to teach students with developmental delays before they graduate from high school. It is easy to believe that these students will always live at home with their parents and not need to know how to live independently, but all students should have the opportunity to learn these skills in case future plans need to change. Teaching these 11 life skills will give students the opportunity to make a better life themselves.
Many of these life skills may seem like "no brainers", but students with developmental disabilities do need to be taught these skills.
- Self care ~ how to shower or bathe (including adjusting the water temperature, where to place the shower curtain/s, washing and conditioning hair, washing body and face, rinsing off, drying off) brushing and styling hair, brushing and flossing teeth, making check-ups with the doctor and dentist, who to call if you become sick
- Basic cooking ~ This really depends on the abilities of the student. Some students will be able to use a knife safely to cut produce and the fat off meat, while others abilities will only allow them to learn how to fix meals with minimal ingredients like soup, macaroni and cheese, and microwave dinners. No matter what the students' abilities, all students need to learn how to cook and make meals.
- Making menu ~ Teaching students how to make a menu for the week before grocery shopping is very important. These students will probably have limited money and supplies, and buying food that they don't need could make it difficult for them to pay their bills or rent.
- Purchasing groceries ~ Using their menu for the week, the students need to learn how to make a grocery list and how to pick out the groceries once they are at the store. Tips like waiting to pick up the cold and frozen food until right before check out, and looking for what is the best price not just what is on sale can be helpful life skills.
- Counting money and writing checks ~ If the students are going to be able to purchase groceries and clothes and pay bills, they will need to know how to count money and write checks. Many places have programs where volunteers or employees will take adults with developmental disabilities to the grocery store, clothes shopping, and help them pay the bill or balance their check book.
- Reading a map ~ Adults often need to read a map to know how to get to different places. Our students need to be able to read a map so that he/she can tell a taxi driver or medi-bus driver where they going and sometimes how to get to the destination. Reading a map is also necessary to know where different bus stops are.
- Riding the bus and reading the bus schedule ~ Students need to know the rules of riding a city bus. They need to understand that it is sometimes noisy and chaotic, they may have to sit next to someone they don't know, how to pay for their ride, and how to watch for their stop. Reading the bus schedule is imperative for a student to know which bus to ride to arrive at his/her destination.
- Cleaning house ~ vacuuming; sweeping; washing dishes and laundry; washing and setting the table; cleaning the counter tops, sinks, mirrors, and toilet; mopping, dusting, washing windows
- Purchasing clothes ~ Buying clothes can be tricky for all of us: finding the right size, a style that works with things in our wardrobe, having enough money for what we want. People with developmental disabilities have all of these needs and wants too, but they may not think about all of the aspects in buying clothes. For instance, they may not think about trying on clothes to make sure the fit is right or checking the price tag to ensure they have enough money to make the purchase. Also, they may need to learn where to shop and how to get there.
- Using a calculator ~ Most schools are going to teach students how to do this, at least the basics (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) but our students also need to know how to figure out discounts and gratuity.
- Using a land line telephone and a cell phone ~ This may seem like such a simple task, but there are vast differences between land line phones and cell phones. There are so many different kinds of land line phones and different kinds of cell phones that this can seem to be a daunting task. The priority is to teach the students how to use his/her landline phone that they have at home or work and his/her cell phone. If the cell phone happens to be a smart phone, start off with just the phone function and work on one app at a time.
Life skills, are just that, skills that are used in every day life. That is why they are so very important. Just take one or two at a time and be patient. It may take a while for some skills while others are learned quickly. Remember that these skills will improve these students' lives and their ability to live independently.