It is with a spirit of love, dignity, respect, inclusion, and the belief that all people with disabilities have the right to an education and learn to be as independent as possible, that I would like to offer you a few realistic and practical ways to teach the life skills goals that I outlined in Part One.

Please consider the following suggestions and Questions to ask yourself when deciding upon the first self help skill to target:

• Begin observing your child as he or she goes about his or her typical activities of daily living.

• What self help activities are you performing for your child that would make life easier for you and your child’s future caregivers if he or she could do them him or herself?

• Which self help skills has your child already accomplished?

• What skills has your child not yet achieved that is at roughly the same or just a little bit above the level of ability as the skills they are already performing?

• Has your child ever expressed an interest in learning any new self help skills? If not, now is the time to talk about how fun doing things for him or herself will be and how proud you and your child will be when he or she learns to do more for him/herself.

• What self help skills do you think your child is capable of realistically learning?

• Ask your child what he or she think is the most important skill to learn first. I suggest leaning towards a chore that will be simple enough for your child to master quickly. There’s nothing like success to motivate us to keep on learning and achieving new skills!!

Model the skill: Once you’ve finally chosen your child’s first skill to work on, go ahead and model each step necessary to accomplish that skill successfully.

• Be sure to have all the materials needed to teach the new skill in place before trying to teach how to do it.

• Many children with special needs are visual and hands-on learners. Going through the motions, with your child, of each step required to learn the new skill is a must!

• Children who have auditory or language processing disabilities may not comprehend lengthy verbal instructions. For these children, I highly recommend displaying photo instructions or, if your child can read, have written directions made up for them to go over. Begin with little baby steps. Break down your target skills into incremental steps.

I’ll use the skill of replacing a dead light bulb as an example to explain what I mean!

1. Turn off the lamp

2. Unscrew the light bulb counter clockwise

3. Throw the dead bulb in the garbage

4. Get a new bulb

5. Screw the new bulb into the lamp socket clockwise

6. Turn on the lamp Rewards: Should our children be rewarded for working on self help skills?

I personally believe that a little praise, and the satisfaction of a job well done are the best kinds of rewards.

However, if you think a little extra motivation will make the difference in whether or not your child is willing to put in the effort required to learn a new skill then a more concrete reward may be in order such as:

• A new toy or gadget

• Playing a favorite game with mom or dad

• A ride on the carousel

• A favorite edible treat

• An outing to a favorite destination

• Staying up an hour past bedtime

• Watching a favorite TV show

• Extra computer time

Check back later for Part Three: Computer Skills for Independent Living

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