Skip to content

How To Foster Independence Skills

Parents all have goals about what they’d like their kids to do and have in adulthood. Perhaps they imagine their daughter as an esteemed marine biologist who writes books and owns estates around the world. Or maybe their goal for their son, who has special needs, is to live in a nice home with friends or by himself and have a job he really enjoys. It is our job to help set our students and families up for success in the future.  In order to do this, we need to start grooming their independence skills when they are young. We want to help ensure that our clients will be proficient at taking care of themselves to the best of their abilities by the time they are grown up and ready to leave home.

Once a student is a pro with beginner’s self-care tasks, incrementally delve into the more advanced targets that follow. If your kiddo struggles with learning life skills, then be sure to employ the recommended teaching tools and tips.

Independence Skills To Teach

This list in not exhaustive, but it covers a lot of the important independence skills a child needs to master in order to be, ultimately,  self-sufficient. Want more ideas for what to teach students to prep them for adulthood? Check out the Life Skills Program Planner by the Grand Erie District School Board and The Assessment of Functional Living Skills by James Partington.

-Chooses appropriate clothes (ie: sweaters in winter, shorts in summer)
-Gets dressed without assistance
-Independently showers, brushes teeth and hair
-Uses the washroom independently and appropriately
-Blow-dries hair
-Cuts fingernails and toenails

Around the house
-Clears the table
-Does the dishes
-Uses the phone
-Makes the bed
-Folds and puts away clean laundry
-Sweeps the floors
-Uses the washer and dryer to do the laundry
-Prepares/cooks basic food

In the community
-Follows/understands community safety skills
-Orders food independently at a restaurant
-Chooses and checks out books at the library
-Assembles a grocery list
-Gathers items on grocery list to buy
-Uses a bank card/money to purchase items
-Gets haircuts at the salon/barber shop
-Walks safely to and from destinations in the neighbourhood
-Takes transit

Teaching Tools + Tips

If your client struggles with executive functioning or a developmental delay, use pictures and prompting – the how-to is in our previous blog – to help them learn independence skills. Once she has the mechanics of, for example, buying milk and bread from the store, teach her to use apps that’ll keep her focused and on task, so she doesn’t have to rely on you to tell her what to do next. Here are some that help shape independence.

Proloquo2Go: If your child can’t speak, get this communication tool. It gives an audible voice to those with limited to no expressive language.

iDo Hygiene: This app will help teach a student how to have a shower, put on deodorant, brush her hair, style a ponytail and use public washrooms appropriately.

Brush Up: Toothbrush Trainer:  This app helps your kiddos with toothbrushing by guiding them through the process with visuals and fun characters!

Cozi Family Organizer: It allows you to share (from your phone to theirs) grocery lists, daily to-dos and other family priorities to foster responsibility, independence and task completion.

Paperless: Lists and Checklists: Use this app to create text-based schedules for, as examples, making lunches or after-school routines.

Simplist: Another great app for creating checklists and to-do lists for a learner who is ready for something more advanced (and less visual).

i Get… Cooking Vocabulary and Create Recipe Photo Sequence Books: A great tool for teaching learners how to navigate the kitchen and make food. The app offers labeled pictures of cooking supplies, actions and appliances, and an option to create your own book of recipes that show to-do steps.

Choiceworks: Daily schedules can be created with images and audio. Perfect for visual learners who are younger at heart and are motivated by pictures. This website provides materials that promote independence skills, such as visual recipes, social stories about hygiene and picture sequences for how to use public bathrooms.

Photography from iStock