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       Functional Adaptive Living Skills

Functional/Adaptive Living skills For people with autism, learning life skills is essential to increase independence at home, at school and in the community. By introducing these skills early and building block by block, people with autism gain the tools that will allow him or her to increase self esteem and lead to more happiness in all areas of life. Our life skills strategies and ideas will help our community get started and provide tools to support continued learning through the transition from school to adult life.


What Are Life Skills?


Life skills are sometimes referred to as independent living skills or daily living skills. Basic life skills include self-care activities, cooking, money management, shopping, room organization and transportation. These skills are learned over time, beginning at home at a very young age and developing further throughout adolescence and adulthood. Learning a wide range of life skills that apply to many areas of life is critical. It is also important to include executive function skills or thinking skills such as organizing, planning, prioritizing and decision making related to each life skill being taught. Categories of life skills include:

How To Teach Life Skills?


Every person with autism is different, so the life skills that will be taught, and the pace that they are taught, will vary from person to person. For example, one young adult with autism may ultimately be able to live on his or her own with very little, if any, outside support, while another may require supports and services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Starting to develop life skills to the best of a child's ability at a young age will make a difference as they get older. There are endless life skills to learn which will be taught and practiced at home, school, and in the community. Most people with autism benefit from clear, hands-on instruction in life skills that will help them to increase independence. Life Skills classes or independent living programs are common ways to learn these skills and are usually led by a teacher or therapist. Life skills training should occur in natural environments where the skills being taught relate directly to the type of environment the person is going to live and use them. This means learning cooking skills in a kitchen, or learning laundry skills in a laundromat.

Categories of life skills include:

Health and safety.

Career path and employment.


Peer relationships, socialization and social communication.

Community participation and personal finance.



Home living skills.

Functional life skills are essential for all individuals to learn and develop as they get older to learn to be more independent with their everyday life. It can feel overwhelming when you think about all the different areas of life skills you can teach and that someone has to try to learn.


Self-Care Skills



Taking shirt on and off

Taking pants on and off

Taking underwear on and off

Taking bra on and off

Taking socks on and off

Taking shoes on and off

Tying shoes

Completing buttons and zippers on clothing

Tie a tie

Pick out appropriate clothes for the day/weather

Mend tears in clothing/sew a button

Picking out the right sized clothing

Read and understand fabric labels

Folding clothes and putting them away in the appropriate location


Personal Hygiene

How to Use the Toilet

Washing hands

Taking shower

Taking bath

Brushing hair

Brushing teeth

Washing face


Shaving face

Shaving legs

Menstrual cycle cleanliness

Applying makeup


Kitchen Skills

Making a sandwich

Getting a snack from the fridge or cupboard

Getting a bowl of cereal to eat

Making toast

Pouring self a drink (milk, water, or juice)

Reheating a meal in the microwave

Packing lunch for school

Follow a basic recipe

Using toaster

Using the oven to make a meal

pack leftovers from dinner

Read food labels

Knife safety skills

Tell ripe food from spoiled food

Set the table


Home Management Skills

Cleaning up toys, putting away in bin/basket

Washing a load of laundry in the washer and using the dryer

Sweeping the floor

Vacuuming the floor

Throwing away items in the trash

Taking out the trash

Sorting out recyclables

Washing off countertops

Washing dishes

Loading dishwasher

Washing dishes by hand

Cleaning the shower/bathtub

Cleaning the toilet

Putting away clothes

Put dirty clothes in the hamper

Folding clothes

Making the bed

Sorting certain items in the home and organizing them into the correct location

Feeding Pets

Bring in and put away groceries

Basic home repair skills such as unclogging toilet or sink


Taking Care of Body/Health and Safety

Taking medicine

Treating a wound

How to rescue and what to say to the operator

How to stop bleeding from a cut

What to do in a fire

What do to in an emergency

Knows own address

Knows basic medical information about themselves

Understands stranger safety

Use an epi-pen for self or for friends

How to call the doctor to make an appointment

How to go to the doctor

How to take over the counter medicine safely for common illnesses


Shopping/Community Outing Skills

Making a grocery/shopping list

Going to the grocery store

Finding food or items at the store

Purchasing food/items at the cash register at the store

Order items online to be shipped to home

How to checkout at online store

Using public transportation safely

Walk around the neighborhood safely

Crossing a busy street and parking lot

Understanding car safety when driving

How to read road signs

How to go to a restaurant

How to go to the mall

How to go to the park

How to go to the movie theater


Functional Life Skills at School

Eating lunch in the lunchroom

Having an organized desk/locker

Getting the homework completed each day

Following school routine

Hanging up backpack and coat

Getting ready for recess

Using the bathroom/restroom at school

Getting food from the vending machine

Navigating to the correct classroom

Staying at a school desk

Typing on computer

Checking out a book from the library

Organization Skills

Get up in time and ready for the day to go to school/work on time

Create a checklist of things to do in the day

identify important tasks vs. non-important tasks

Meet deadlines

Develop a daily routine

Takes care of their things and know where they are in the home


Money Skills

Creating a budget

how to manage a checking account

how to manage a savings account

How to use an ATM

How to write a check

How to pay with dollar bills

How to pay with debit/credit card

Understand how credit works

How to save money

How to pay bills

Understand how taxes work

Deficits in self-help skills are not seen to be one of the core deficits of ASD. However, it is a deficit that many individuals with ASD display, leaving them unable to complete basic tasks such as bathing, toileting, eating or dressing.

To conclude, self-care for those with autism should be brought more to light, so that people who do struggle with self-care can benefit and help themselves. This is important. Getting help either from your GP or a therapist can help you feel more comfortable and happy with yourself.

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