Teaching Life Skills

Teaching Life Skills


A goal that some Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) may look to achieve with their clients is teaching life skills relevant to their day to day lives. Teaching life skills is important because it allows for the individual to become more independent and can help build up their confidence. Which life skills to teach is dependent upon the client, the skill set they already have and what skills they and/or their caregivers feel are important to learn.

There are various categories that different life skills will fall into. Below is a list of just some of the categories of skills that the client may be taught:

1. Personal Care and Living Skills. This category focuses on day-to-day activities that the client must engage in to maintain hygiene and health and to promote independence. These are skills such as washing hands, taking a shower, or brushing their teeth. This can also include cleaning the house, cooking food or even going shopping and money management.

2. Executive Functioning Skills. This category focuses on organizational skills. While this type of skill may not seem important initially, as the client becomes older, teaching them how to break tasks down will decrease the chance of them becoming overwhelmed or frustrated by the task. Teaching them to create to-do lists can also help them organize their day and provide a visual of what items/activities need to be achieved.

3. Job Skills. This category is primarily for older individuals looking to join the work force but can be applied to those younger individuals as well. For older clients who want to obtain a job, teaching them how to create a resume and how to interview are key skills to have. Generalizing social skills that have been taught previously can help an individual practice interviewing for a job and how they will engage with employers and coworkers. For younger individuals, they can start volunteering places to gain work experience and practice in those areas. Caregivers can also provide “jobs” within the house (such as cleaning room, doing dishes). This can allow younger individuals to start practicing taking responsibility for tasks and, if an allowance is given, can start to teach them money management.

When deciding which skills to teach, the BCBA and caregivers will work together to decide what skills are going to be socially relevant for the client. The client’s skill set should be assessed to see what skills they already have, what skills can be built upon and what skills need to be taught completely. From there, the BCBA can develop a plan for how to teach these skills and put that plan into play. This may include the BCBA (or behavior technician) directly implementing teaching interventions, providing training to caregivers on interventions and/or asking caregivers to collect data to inform further decision making on teaching interventions. To promote the best results, these skills should be continuously practiced, reinforced, and generalized across various settings.