The 7 Essential Life Skills for Those with Autism - Harbor School

The 7 Essential Life Skills for Those with Autism

The 7 Essential Life Skills for Those with Autism

The importance of Life Skills

Life skills are essential for everyone, but helping children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) learn these skills is especially crucial as it can help prepare them for the day-to-day challenges of participating in their community and workplace, and feeling independent at home. Life skills also serve the important function of preparing children to take action in situations where adults may not be around to help.

Here are some of the essential life skills to focus on while at home or out in public:

1. Executive Functioning Skills

According to Autism, executive functioning refers to a person's ability to process information. They are the organizational skills needed to plan ahead, break down a task, and create a to-do list. While many neurotypical people struggle with these skills, it is common for people with ASD to have difficulty organizing their thoughts, planning their actions, paying attention, inhibiting inappropriate responses, and self-regulating emotions. Some have difficulty with complex thinking that requires holding more than one train of thought at the same time. Executive functioning challenges can also be associated with poor impulse control.

2. Daily Living Skills

These skills encompass the various tasks needed for independent adult living such as handling money, shopping, paying bills, and managing a bank account. It also includes housekeeping, washing and storing clothing, and home maintenance tasks, meal preparation, buying and storing food, as well as independent travel using various modes of transportation.

3. Personal Care

This involves performing proper grooming and hygiene, showering, toileting and toothbrushing. It also includes self care like getting regular exercise, dealing with common illnesses, and creating coping strategies for uncomfortable situations. People with ASD can really benefit from creating relaxation routines to help them manage stress.

4. Occupational Skills

These skills prepare individuals for meaningful work to their highest potential. Learning job-seeking skills can help people on the spectrum identify requirements of appropriate jobs, investigate local occupational opportunities, apply, and interview for jobs. People with ASD also benefit from explicitly learning appropriate work habits such as maintaining punctuality and regular attendance, helping others, following directions, and observing regulations.

5. Safety Awareness

Identifying danger and respecting emergency procedures is essential for everyone, but it is of vital importance for people with ASD, who may not know how to deal with a potentially dangerous situation. Explicit education about risks at home, risks while traveling, fire safety, what to do in an emergency, and how to avoid unsafe situations should be reinforced and practiced often.

6. Social Skills

Social skills allow individuals to get along and participate in society. People with ASD may struggle with demonstrating appropriate behavior and respect towards others, recognizing authority, and following instructions. Speaking, listening, and responding appropriately can be a challenge, so working in a group, making friends, dealing with family relationships, communicating over the phone are all areas that can be developed.

7. Self-Advocacy

Children on the autism spectrum need to be taught how to get their needs met effectively. They need to learn how and when to ask questions, whom to approach for help, and how to say no. Learning how to solve problems by recognizing difficulties and seeking assistance can go a long way to increasing a child’s self esteem and independence.

While learning these life skills is a continual process, parents can take an active role at home with tasks that provide real world practice. While it may seem daunting at times, and children with ASD will continue to need support with many tasks, with the right preparation and patience, children can develop essential life skills. Complete independence may not be possible for every child, but even small steps toward mastering any life skill can increase independent functioning and motivate the child, bringing positivity and happiness to the whole family. 

lee vodfsky

Harbor School a private special education school in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Our mission at Harbor School is to help all of our special needs students with learning, social, language, behavioral, and other disabilities. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student reach their full potential.

We would be more than happy to discuss your child's specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.544.9394, or request a tour at Harbor School in Eatontown, NJ. We are located just minutes off of the Garden State Parkway at exit 105 and conveniently located off of Route 35 and Route 36 in Monmouth County, NJ.

Lee Vodofsky
Principal-Harbor School, Eatontown, NJ