Photo: two teens doing school work at table Text: 3 ways to work on life skills in special education

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Do you work on life skills in special education? If not, you need to start! Here are three simple ways to incorporate life skills into your classroom.

What are Life Skills in Special Education?

Life skills are activities that we do to be as independent as possible. Life skills are activities such as washing our hands, ordering at a restaurant, brushing our teeth or paying at a store. These are things that many of us probably take for granted. It’s important to work on these essential life skills with our students to help them to be independent as they grow older. The goal is to be able to be as independent as possible within society.

What are life skills in special education?

Why are Life Skills Important for Students with Special Needs?

Our students with special needs must learn functional life skills to be an independent member of society. We should have high goals for our students while they are in our classroom (that are also attainable). My main goal with students is always independence. I don’t want them to be prompt-dependent. I want them to be able to complete daily life skills on their own one day.

Some of our students will be able to live on their own as an adult if we teach them the skills that they need. This makes teaching life skills one of the most important parts of special education.

Why are life skills important for students with special needs?

3 Ways to Work on Life Skills in Special Education

Below, I’ve listed three ways to work on life skills in your special education classroom. You can do as much or as little as you like in the classroom to fit your schedule!

1. Real Life Skills Practice at School

Practicing life skills while at school is the most obvious way to incorporate life skills into your classroom routine. For example, after lunch-have students practice brushing their teeth. Take specific restroom breaks throughout the day to practice washing hands and practice restroom procedures. Teach students how to make simple snacks and teach them the vocabulary needed for cooking.

Try having some life skills activities incorporated into your classroom jobs, such as sweeping with the broom or wiping down the tables at dismissal time.

Practice counting and identifying money during math or even set up a school-wide snack cart. There are honestly so many different opportunities for practicing life skills throughout the day!

2. Community-Based Instruction (CBI) Trips

CBI trips are one of my favorite ways to work on life skills in special education. When I was still in the classroom, we would take weekly CBI trips to focus on functional skills that students need when they are out in the community. CBI trips are community-based instruction. These are a great way to practice essential life skills in special education by taking students out into the community. We have gone to such places as restaurants, dollar store, the post office, the grocery store and Wal-Mart.

Taking students out into the community gives real world life skills experience and practice and helps prepare them to use the skills that you’ve been working on in the classroom. Did you know that there are 6 life skills you can teach students just while taking them grocery shopping?!

Try going on community-based instruction trips to practice functional skills.

3. Hands-On Life Skills Sequencing Activities

Taking students out into the community is great hands-on practice for teaching life skills in special education. However, it’s not always practical for every classroom or school so we have to find other ways to work on life skills too! This is why I developed the Life Skills Cut and Paste Worksheets! I wanted my students to be able to practice some of these community skills and understand the process and sequence for each activity.

You can use these Life Skills Sequencing Worksheets during centers practice and also before and after CBI trips throughout the year! There are social narratives included for the safety skills as well. We can’t practice EVERYTHING in the natural setting so bring some work tasks into your classroom to reinforce community skills!

Here is a list of all of the life skills that the Life Skills Worksheets focus on:

  • Crossing the street
  • Bus rules
  • Public bathrooms
  • Waiting in line
  • Ordering food
  • Making a purchase
  • Using a debit card
  • Using a credit card
  • Eating at a restaurant
  • Mailing a letter
  • Checking out a book
  • Shopping at the mall
  • Going to the movies
  • Going to a baseball game
  • Going to a pet store
  • Going bowling
  • Going to the zoo
  • Going to a nature center

Check out more life skills activities for teaching cleaning and chores by clicking here!

Grab the life skills cut and paste sequencing worksheets!


What types of life skills do you work on in your special education classroom?

3 Ways to Work on Life Skills in Special Education