This month we will be talking about life skills. Now before you click out of this blog post because you teach preschool, teach students with a high level of academic skills, or think that teaching life skills don’t apply to you – hold your horses. I am not talking about what we traditionally think of as life skills in the special ed world. When we say “life skills,” often we assume this means a pre-vocational based task. We immediately think of community trips, sorting laundry, and hardware based tasks. Yes those are all great life skills. But we are going to take it in a different direction this month. We are going to look at the bigger picture of what life skills really mean. Let’s investigate the skills that our students need to be successful in life. These skills really apply to all children. Skills like advocating for your self, solving problems, taking responsibility, and having an opinion are essential skills that our students need. Without skills like that – participating in a community trip or completing a work based activity will not mean as much. We need these other essential skills to make these activities independent and functional.
If we broaden our perspective of what ‘life skills’ are we quickly realize we need to be teaching this at every grade level to every level of student. What skills we focus on and how we teach them will differ depending on the student – but we need to start on this asap. There are so many skills we utilize on a daily basis that are imperative to the success of our day. We utilize these strategies without even realizing it. They are second nature. As you go through a morning of getting ready for work or an evening around your house, think about the skills you are using to accomplish each task. You are constantly planning, multi-tasking, shifting your attention, budgeting your time, and more. These skills help you accomplish a multitude of tasks, have a job, maintain relationships, and more. These are the kinds of skills we need to be teaching our students.
This can quickly become overwhelming because there is a lot to tackle and these are complex skills. But that’s okay. Good things take time. Pick one meaningful and important skill for each of your students. It can be something more simple like asking for help or something more complex like demonstration empathy. The basics for teaching any of these skills is to provide (or contrive) frequent opportunities to demonstrate the skill, model and fade appropriate responding, and provide lots of reinforcement for when the skill is demonstrated. This month we will review a range of specific activities or opportunities to work on these more global ‘life skills’ in your classroom. Once you start think about skills and strategies like this for your students, it’s becomes easier to see the areas we need to focus on. So whether you are a self-contained preschool teacher or in an inclusion high school position – it’s time to up the ante on those life skills!