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Mastery Life Skills for Special Needs Students

written by: Deidra Alexander • edited by: Amanda Grove • updated: 1/5/2012

For special needs students, who will all have to face the world, a life skills curriculum is a must. Creating a sound program is paramount for student success. Use this article to devise a curriculum focused on the importance of developing life skills for special needs students.

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    Think of all the abilities you have that you use on a daily basis to maintain a job, run a household, socialize with friends, date, and pursue higher learning. Once you really sit down and think about it, if a debilitating condition came upon you to effect any, one area of functioning, you would find yourself facing life’s common tasks with great difficulty. This is the case for our special needs students, who due to a disorder or affliction are impaired to some degree in their abilities to function as an unaffected adult. Luckily, we are here to help them develop the skills that do not naturally come to them.

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    Preparing for Independence

    A curriculum that works along with the student’s educational plan and the school’s/state’s curriculum to work on life skills for special needs students combines daily living, social, and job skills. When you are developing a life skills curriculum, it is best to break down each aspect of what the student’s life will be like as an adult and match that information to their current level of performance.

    Focus your attention on getting the student from dependent to independent by the time they leave secondary education. A life skills curriculum should be coordinated and implemented as early on in the student’s life as time of diagnosis. Since students are already working against a deficit, promotion of the benefits of early planning and action towards the future is highly necessary well before exit from secondary education.

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    Steps to Life Skills Curriculum Development

    The first piece of data you need to create a curriculum covering life skills for special needs students is their educational plan. Take the goals and objectives listed within the plan and dissect each one for incorporation into the life skills curriculum. For instance, if the student has a goal listed in regards to fractions and decimals, work on this goal as a life skill with money lessons or by working on food preparation.

    It is important to realize that it is not enough to isolate money lesson plans to simply textbook operation, as this will disconnect them from the real world. The needs of a special education student command the tangibility that only real-life experiences can afford. Set up activities where the student can first practice participation in exchanges of money and then bring this practice to life beyond the classroom.

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    Practical Events

    An easy way to do this is to set up events where the student has a chance to purchase or sell items. You can take this activity a step further by having them work on more than one skill at a time. Here's an example:

    • Have student(s) visit a store and buy ingredients for baking on day one.
    • On day two have student(s) measure and mix the ingredients according to the recipe then sell the baked items at a bake sale (send an announcement to the school and community about the sale so the student has another opportunity to use their skills in a real-life setting).
    • Assist student(s) and assign duties according to level of functioning, as not everyone will be capable of doing the same things or at the highest level.
    • Providing access to real world experiences in this manner will cut down on frustration, improve motivation, and build esteem while teaching life skills.
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    A List of Life Skills

    Other than money management, there are several important independent areas of living that should be worked on with a special needs student.

    • Running a household
    • Grooming and personal care
    • Safety
    • Food preparation, planning, and consumption
    • Shopping
    • Community Living
    • Recreation
    • Transportation
    • Conduct
    • Esteem, confidence, and self awareness
    • Social skills
    • Problem solving
    • Employment and Occupation

    By the time, students are 14 years old, a transition plan for post-secondary entry must be offered to them. Life skills will continue to be worked on while transition into the workforce will be highly stressed. Students are required to have a plan in place that places them in regular and continuous contact with people in the community to help them achieve the goals for this plan by the time they exit high school.