Teaching Life Skills To Special Needs Children

Teaching Life Skills For More Independent Children

Do you have a special needs child with just basic life skills?

Are you concerned if they are learning the life skills they need to be more independent?

This has been a subject that has been on my mind lately.

If I’m being honest here then I would tell you that I do too many things for our special needs children.

Having realized this, I know I really need to change my ways and start being more proactive with teaching them the life skills they need to be more independent.

So now I’m going to tell you why I’m going to change my ways and stop being an enabler.

You see, we have 4 children with 2 of them being typical and 2 of them being special needs.

I honestly didn’t do the best job making our oldest 2 girls more independent.

My tendency was to either do it for them or I would let them get away with sub-par results.

I was a little bit of an enabler. I didn’t set out to be that way it just comes naturally for me to just do everything myself.

Probably should have delegated more responsibilities their way, like showing them the proper way to do chores and more complex life skills.

This is where I’ve lived and learned, parenting is no easy thing! We all make mistakes.

That’s where we need a lot of grace and we need to forgive ourselves.

They are both grown adults now and are managing fine. So maybe I didn’t hinder them too badly after all, lol!

And of course, I’m always here for them to answer and guide them when they need help.

So this brings me to our 2 youngest children and my need to make sure they are better equipped to handle more adult life skills.

I know teaching them will look a little different than it would be for a typical learning child.

Depending on what kind of special needs they have there will need to be some adjusting.

Both of our younger children have different learning styles and capabilities.

But this shouldn’t stop you from preparing them for adulthood.

Teaching Life Skill Basics

Whether your children go to school or you home-school the basic knowledge of life skills need to be taught by the parents.

These skills don’t come naturally, and if not taught, your child will not be prepared for life.

Becoming an adult and taking on responsibilities is pressure enough.

By teaching your child basic life skills, you are equipping them to be ready for the world.

All of this would be a perfect scenario if our 2 youngest didn’t have so many challenges.

So how do I tackle the to-do-list of creating more independent kids?

Well for us I came to the conclusion that they really needed the basics.

We will continue to build on those skills as I see fit depending on where their maturity is.

So maybe you are asking what are the basics and how do they look?

Here is my list of the skills we have been working on:
  • Making the bed without assistance
  • Putting away clothes and hanging them properly(both of my kids struggle with this)
  • Attending to grooming and personal hygiene without being reminded(examples would be cutting their own nails, washing face, brushing teeth, making sure they are properly clean and have clean clothes on)
  • Performing household chores(vacuuming, dusting, mopping, cleaning windows, bathroom detail, laundry)
  • Make a simple to-do list for reminders
  • Answer the phone and take a message
  • Pay for an item and make change

I know there are so many more basic skills but the simple ones need to be mastered so we can move forward.

Remember that the agenda is to prepare your child to be more independent as they become adults.

Hopefully, they should be able to live on their own, but if not, I don’t want to be reminding them to be doing everything.

[We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites]

Moving Beyond The Basic Life Skills

Now that I feel that my 2 youngest are grasping the basics it’s time to concentrate on the more complex life skills.

These skills are more on the high executive side. Absolutely the ones you will need to concentrate on.

You will want to practice these consistently until they have them down.

Also, make sure your child has a clear understanding of why they need these skills.

1. Money or Budgeting Skills

I want my kids to understand that money isn’t the most important thing in life.

But you most certainly need to have money for the basics of life.

I also tell my children that they need some kind of education or vocational skill to help make life a little more comfortable.

Not everyone is cut out for college. I have to say that with some of the debt you incur going to college doesn’t pay off.

Of course depending on the degree.life skills

With our older two girls they ended up choosing a trade school and we were happy for both of them.

Our younger two still have some time to choose and decide.

Right now we don’t know which path they will choose or what obstacles they will have to get there.

We will cross that bridge when we get to it.

But they still need to know how to manage their money and how to spend and save it correctly.

So this is how we are approaching the spending and saving part of money management.

When we realized they both were mature enough to handle the money we started giving them an allowance.

This is for extra chores or projects that need to be done around the house.

But we also made some rules they need to follow with their newfound money.

We will no longer buy anything extra that they would like. Examples would be toys, games, electronics or things outside of basic needs.

They will need to save money for trips so they have spending money.

Save money for birthday and Christmas presents for siblings.

We still obviously put a roof over there heads, food in their mouths, clothes on their backs and still get presents for birthdays and Christmas.

We take care of all the essential needs and make them responsible for all the things that they want but don’t necessarily need.

So far it’s going really well. They actually don’t have very many wants.

I was always constantly buying them things when I was out and about, but honestly, I’m a mother and I just thought they would like it.

And they did and were always grateful and said thank-you.

But now they are responsible for those little things if they choose to buy them.

I want to make sure that they have the saving down part before we move forward with more complex money skills.

These will be some of the skills we will be working on in the future when the appropriate time comes.life skills

  1. Making a budget and sticking to it with regards to saving and spending.
  2. They need to be able to use a debit card to make purchases and be able to memorize their personal pin.
  3. Every teen or young adult needs to know how to open a bank account, write a check and use the ATM.
  4. I don’t like for my kids to have a credit card until I know they know the responsibilities of having one.
  5. I do let them know it’s a good idea to have one because it helps them to establish credit. But tell them to use it to purchase gas and to always pay it off at the end of the month. This is a good way to establish good credit for yourself.
  6. Make sure they understand that they need some kind of savings for emergencies. If there is one thing my kids know is that emergencies happen. It’s less stressful if you have the funds to take care of it.
  7. It’s important to give to others or give to a charity that you support.
  8. Be able to keep a simple budget

I know that for some parents that have special needs children some of these skills will never be achieved.

But just showing them some simple money basics will help them with their future.

You can try using play money and go over what things cost and how much they need to be spending and saving.

We have one child that may never be able to be independent but I will try my best to instill in her the money skills that I know she will be able to handle.

2. Cooking Skills

Here is where you will need to access how and where your child’s interest is in the kitchen.

Do they want to learn to cook or bake? Maybe both subjects interest them.

I’ve got one that has no interest and one that wants to just hurry their way through.

But they both still need to know the basics OK cooking.

Examples would be:

  • How to use a knife properly
  • Boil water
  • How to follow a recipe
  • Cook an egg
  • Kitchen safety- if something catches on fire and how to put it out or when to call for help. If you get burned and how to take care of your burn.
  • How to measure ingredients

These are just the basics but this is a good place to start and it helps your child become more confident in the kitchen.

You never know what will happen and there might be a budding chef before you!

4. Personal Hygiene and Puberty

I’m not going to go into detail here. I’ve already written 2 different posts on these subjects.

I’ll put the links right here:

Puberty In Boys

Puberty In Girls

5. Time Management

Here is another subject I won’t get into detail about because I have another post on this very subject.

Here is the link: Teaching Time Management To Kids


teaching life skills

6. How To Do Car Maintenance

I’m actually on the fence about this subject.

I’m not against them learning how to change a tire, check the tire pressure or even checking the fluids in the car to see if they are low.

I don’t know if both of them will drive or at least our daughter.

Our son probably will but with today’s technology and Auto Car Assistance, there are options for help.

They do need to know how to put gas in a car and be able to know if the tires are low.

I do also want them to know the basics of tools and what functions each of them has.

So I have to admit we will be getting whoever will be driving a car assistance policy.

Should they need assistance with a breakdown or have a flat tire.

7. Higher Executive Life Skills

So now we are coming to the higher skills that come with repetitive teaching and practicing.

Social skills and communication are some of the top skills we have to practice constantly.

As children age, the more complex their skills need to be practiced.

Decision making is also very important and we actually struggle in this area.

Our son not so much but our daughter definitely does.

When we are practicing making decisions I don’t give her to many options.

I know in life sometimes we might not have control over this but remember just make those baby steps.

Also being able to control our emotions will become even more important as our children age.

We have been really working hard along with a therapist on emotional regulation.

Especially with our daughter.

She is starting to recognize when her anxiety is building and removing herself from the situation.

We have a  color scale system that we use.

Green means I’m ok and feel calm

Orange means I’m feeling a little anxious but I’m breathing and doing good.

Red means that I’m feeling very anxious and I need some help.

Black means I need to leave and find someplace to calm myself

This seems to be working well for us so we are sticking with it.


8. Communication Skills

What I mean here is not only being able to be verbal with someone your child needs to know how to use the phone to find out basic information.

Some examples would be:

  • Calling a place of business and asking for their hours of operation.
  • Ordering their own food
  • Asking an adult for directions
  • When and how to call 911

The very last skill I would like to tell you about is filling out important papers.

Such as:

  1. Filling out an application for employment
  2. Information at the Drs office
  3. School application
  4. Surveys

I’ve tried to cover most life skills but I’m sure there are some I might have left off.

I just wanted to highlight a few that we are currently working on and ones that we will in the future.

I really hope this gives you some direction on preparing your special needs child for adulthood.

As with both of our special needs children you have to evaluate what are their weak skills and try to build on those.

Patience and consistency are very important and also a lot of positive encouragement.

I would love to hear from you and know what kind of life skills you are working on with your child.


Domestic Engineer Mom

Thanks For Sharing!