UWA Online - Teaching Life Skills

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Teaching independent life skills is a process that begins at birth and goes on into adulthood. Children with disabilities sometimes find these skills difficult to perform for various reasons. As their classroom teacher, you can help your students acquire these skills and live as independently as possible.


The State of Special Education

6.7 million

Number of K-12 students in special education programs in the U.S. (1)

Learning life skills at a younger age may help people with special needs be more successful later in life.

Students With Special Needs Need Exceptional Teachers

Our master's degree in Special Education, K-6 will enhance your understanding of trends and issues in the education of students in kindergarten through sixth grade who have cognitive, behavioral, physical or multiple disabilities.

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Percentage of people with disabilities who are unemployed (2)

People with disabilities are 26% more likely to live in poverty than people without disabilities. (2)

A solid education is especially important for students with disabilities as they may face more obstacles in reaching the level of self-sufficiency needed to live happy, balanced lives. Independence gives students a better chance in school, as well, and allows them to develop routine study habits, independence and confidence.

The rate of graduation for students with disabilities is currently 20% lower than the national average. (3)

There are 13 categories of students that meet special education requirements, including: (4)

  • Autism
  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Hearing impairment
  • Intellectual disability
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Other health impaired
  • Specific learning disability (dyslexia, dyscalculia)
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment

For many children in these categories, they are also in need of self-care training. This can include: (4)

  • Eating
  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Toileting
  • Grooming

As their teacher and caretaker for much of the day, how can you help these children maintain their health and hygiene?

Teaching Life Skills

Many students in special education need help in the following areas of self-care. Here are some ideas for teaching each skill in the classroom. (5,6,7)

Communication and social skills

  • Include daily student interaction in your lesson plans
  • Get students out of the classroom and into social environments whenever possible
  • Use pictures to have children point to describing their current feelings and mood


  • Show demonstrations of personal hygiene in class
  • Use social stories involving personal hygiene scenarios
  • Make an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that involves personal hygiene checks throughout the day

Task analysis and time management

  • Help students make calendars for personal routines
  • Use check-off lists for morning activities, meals and evening activities
  • Walk students through the steps of every activity in class

Personal accountability

  • Use skits and role-playing to demonstrate acceptable behavior
  • Create superhero characters that embody desirable traits, write stories for them
  • Encourage students to take frequent breaks in activities to express their feelings

Respecting property

  • Use name tags for personal property
  • Institute borrowing system in class, where students are responsible for objects that stay in the classroom
  • Visit the school library to practice respect of books and space

Cleaning up personal spaces

  • Designate time at the end of each class for clean-up
  • Only allow students to move on to another activity when the current activity has been cleaned up or finished
  • Use music and a cheerful tone to make clean-up fun and energetic

Cooking and nutrition

  • Show the difference between healthy snacks and junk food
  • Encourage each child to take multiple water breaks throughout the day
  • Do not treat kids with candy—instead use verbal praise or play time

Basic navigation skills

  • Use school hallways to help navigate to specific rooms
  • Use outdoor areas for games involving direction switches
  • Encourage students to follow bus route on field trips using maps


Working in special education is rewarding, and having the right credentials can make you an extremely marketable asset in the education market.

Explore The Online Teaching Degrees at UWA.



  1. https://nces.ed.gov
  2. https://www.cec.sped.org
  3. https://www.huffingtonpost.com
  4. http://www.understandingspecialeducation.com
  5. https://www.verywellfamily.com
  6. https://www.thoughtco.com
  7. https://suchatimeasthis.com