Daily Living Skills | Organization for Autism Research

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This blog post has been adapted from “Chapter 6: Life Skills” of OAR’s resource “A Guide for Transition to Adulthood”. 

Often, the discussion of life skills includes relatively vague, bigger-picture traits, like “focus” or “critical thinking”.  While these are certainly important to leading a “successful life” — whatever that may look like for you – they are also difficult to explain in concrete terms, and they can be tricky to effectively teach to someone.

One life skills area that is not emphasized as often as the others is daily living skills, or, the group of abilities that a person should have to make everyday life functional and simpler. Daily living skills are particularly important for those on the spectrum, as they include tasks that are seen by most as intuitive, but may take a bit more time for your child to learn. 

A variety of daily living skills increases in importance during the transition period. Start early and practice these skills so that your young adult will be better able to take care of him or herself throughout adulthood. Remember, some of these skills may be specifically listed in his or her transition plan at school.

For our purposes, this list of daily living skills is divided into three main categories: general skills, money management, and transportation.

General Skills

Phone Skills – This refers to the skills that your child will need to have in order to communicate effectively over the phone.  Along with being 019-phone-callgraphic-iconinherently practical, learning these skills will aid in your child’s ability to keep themselves safe and to seek help.  Additionally, practicing on the phone helps to teach basic social skills as well as encourage independence.  This skill is especially important because it’s likely that it willbe necessary for a job your child may hold in the future. 

Skill-building steps and activities that you can assist your child with include:

  • Practice what to say, how to ask who is calling, and writing down the information for a message   
  • Memorize or program important phone numbers into the phone to assist them with contacting people

Cleaning and Maintaining a Home – The skills in this section are vital because they are applicable in any residential setting, along with many public spaces. Experience with these practices will help to increase the independence of your child, subsequently reducing the workload of their 002-bucketcaregiver, if they have one.  Additionally, learning to clean and maintain a space can develop possible job skills, as well as aiding the promotion of social inclusion.

Skill-building steps and activities that you can assist your child with include:

  • Demonstrate the different types of cleaning products for different areas, such as floors, bathroom, toilet, and other areas; emphasize safety; and show your child the appropriate tools to use with them, such as paper towels, sponges, and gloves
  • If appropriate, read the directions together
  • Start your child shadowing you and watching as you clean the house
  • End with assigning a small job to your child that will be his or her responsibility

Laundry and Clothing Skills – Being responsible for one’s own laundry and clothing can seem daunting at first for many, but learning and practicing these useful skills is a great method to develop independence and a sense of ownership over one’s appearance.

Skill-building steps and activities that you can assist your child with include:woman-teacher-graphic-icon

  • Provide instruction on sorting clothes into different types of loads
  • Explain measuring detergent and using the washing machine and dryer
  • Demonstrate how to iron and provide supervised practice
Money Management

Bank Services – Teaching your child how to manage his or her own money and to navigate a bank account is very important for their financial indepen009-piggy-bankgraphic-icondence as an adult.  Having a basic understanding of how to use a checking or savings account, as well as knowing where to ask questions, will significantly increase your child’s independence skills, as this will allow them to make more of their own decisions.  Finally, a thorough understanding of bank services decreases the chance that others will attempt to take advantage of your child.

Skill-building steps and activities that you can assist your child with include:

  • Set up a simple checking account and/or savings account for your child to really help with mastering the skills of paying bills, saving money, and budgeting resources
  • Arrange a visit to a local bank and meet with a customer service representative with your child to discuss the different banking options and how to access them
  • Discuss what a checking account is and how it can be used to pay bills and keep track of transactions
  • Show your child how to write a check and how to record checks in a ledger; a simple “cheat sheet” inserted into a checkbook can also be a useful reminder for your child about how to write checks

Budgeting – The ability to effectively budget money is one that your child will take with them throughout their lifetime, so it’s certainly an important life skill.  Teaching your child the value of money and how and when to be practical with spending will increase their independence, allowing them to make more of their own decisions.

Skill-building steps and activities that you can assist your child with include:

  • Help your child understand the weekly expenses that he may incur, such as for food, clothes, school supplies, and maybe entertainment.004-shopping-cartgraphic-icon
  • Help your child determine the appropriate amount to spend in each category and then monitor his or her spending accordingly. A simple method to monitor the income and expenses of your child is by using a worksheet.
  • Set up a monthly meeting with your child to review his or her accounts and budget, update them as needed, and monitor his or her spending and acquisition of these important skills. A sample monthly budget may allot for spending on school supplies, snack food, or hobbies, among others.

Credit Cards – Being knowledgeable about how credit cards work and how to use one is a great daily living skill to become familiar with as they can provide financial security in an emergency situation.  Credit cards are also important to understand because using one will help your child to become more independent, and it will build their credit rating to potentially expand future financial options.

007-credit-cardgraphic-iconSkill-building steps and activities that you can assist your child with include:

  • Explain how credit cards work, making sure to cover the finance charges and minimum monthly payments
  • If you feel a credit card may be useful for your child, get one with a low limit, such as $500, and help your child monitor his spending and bill paying
Transportation

Public Transportation – The ability to navigate public transportation with little assistance is a great one for your child to possess. Knowing how, where, and when to take public transportation will certainly increase independence, along with providing increased opportunities for work and recreation.

Skill-building steps and activities that you can assist your child with include:

  • Review the train or bus schedules to help your child determine the appropriate time and route to get him or her to the designated destination
  • Review maps of the routes, as well as where your home is located, to orientate your child to the area046-track-graphic-icon
  • Quiz your child to see if he or she has mastered how to determine the appropriate method of transportation to a location
  • Discuss the cost for using public transportation, as well as how to plan enough time to get to a certain location on time
  • Give your child a map with a tip sheet with directions, along with important phone numbers to call if needed

Driving – Although driving is not a necessary skill to lead an independent life of any kind, it can be a big help in certain settings and circumstances. If knoAsset 3@2xwing how to drive a car is a skill that you believe your child would benefit from, teaching them will increase their independence and provide many more opportunities for work and recreation.

Skill-building steps and activities that you can assist your child with include:

  • Get driving lessons from a driving school or a rehabilitation center that caters to the needs of individuals with disabilities
  • Highlight other important safety rules, such as not talking on the phone when driving or changing the radio station
  • Keep important directions in a file in the glove compartmentTransition-to-adulthood-guide-234x300

While all the skills listed will likely be important for many people to have in order to function more independently, there are many more that are not included on this list that may prove to be necessary for your child to learn. 

Daily living skills are just a few of the many different pieces that make a transition to adulthood successful.  OAR’s A Guide for Transition to Adulthood is a much more comprehensive handbook to the many areas that parents should consider while assisting their children through their transitions.  Available in both English and Spanish, you can order or download a copy today for more information!


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