Life Skills for Special Education Arlington VA

Students of special education classes have developmental disabilities (most of them are children with diagnosed autism), and as a teacher, you will have to come up with creative ways to teach them these life skills. Below are the skills you must teach your students so that they can cope with their daily lives.

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Life Skills for Special Education

Among the most important lessons that special education teachers must teach their students are life skills. While special educational life skills teaching might seem commonsensical and easy, it’s really far from that. Students of special education classes have developmental disabilities (most of them are children with diagnosed autism), and as a teacher, you will have to come up with creative ways to teach them these life skills. Below are the skills you must teach your students so that they can cope with their daily lives.



  1. Money Management: One of the most important things that you must teach your students in special education classes is money management. After all, you wouldn’t want them giving away money to total strangers just because they don’t know its worth. You can teach them the value of money by putting up a “banking system” in your class. You can give your students check books and let them earn money with every assignment that they’ve accomplished. For example, if they finish an activity on time, they can earn more than their other classmates who were late. On the other hand, you can deduct the amount of play money that the student can receive if s/he fails to submit a project. You must be very careful not to upset the students about money, though. This banking system must work like a means to “award” good students, and not punish the ones who fail to meet the mark. The things that can be bought by the students’ play money should be “privileges” and not necessities. For example, don’t make it necessary for your students to earn money just to have lunch. Instead, give them leeway (like an extra time for play of an attractive sticker) in exchange for the play money they’ve earned. This way, they can learn the value of money without feeling too upset about failing to earn enough. Remember, special education students are mostly sensitive, and you wouldn’t want to traumatize them with too harsh a message. Teach them the skills required for “real life” but do this gradually.

  2. Grocery shopping: Another skill that you can teach your special education students is grocery shopping. This will come in very handy when they’re a bit older. If you’re unsure about letting them go out on an actual school trip to the grocery just yet, don’t force the idea. Instead, try to talk to your school principal about the possibility of setting up a “mock grocery” in one of the classrooms. This way, you and other special education teachers can simulate an actual grocery without running the risk of causing a ruckus in a public place. Most special students are not violent, but you wouldn’t want to expose your students to something potentially troubling without testing the waters first. You should expect your students to behave less than ideally at first. If you must, teach this skill to one or two students at a time so that you may concentrate on their learning process more carefully. Then, you can bring the ones who behaved well to a group session to the mock grocery. When you think your entire class is prepared for the trip to the real grocery, call up the grocery owner and tell them that you plan to take the children to their store. Most probably, the shop owner will be closing the store for your trip so that they can concentrate on aiding you in teaching the students how to shop for themselves. Of course, in real life, your students will be exposed to strangers. But, as we’ve said earlier, you need to teach your students these skills gradually, so it’s okay to start with this set-up. The last thing that you want is for this to appear like a task to them. Teach the skill to them so that they think of it as a game. This will speed up their learning process significantly.

  3. Hygiene: This skill is a very important life skill that you must include in your special education courses. However, it’s also one of the most difficult to teach. While the other two life skills can be taught through demonstration, this life skill will have to be taught through more conventional means. You can probably include daily or weekly snippets of lessons focusing on the importance of hygiene in their lives. Tell them how important it is to take a bath once or twice in a day, how to clean themselves after doing the number one or number two in the loo, and to brush their teeth after every meal. Make sure that you teach them to wash their hands before and after eating to prevent sickness. When you’re teaching them these lessons, you should include a lot of colorful illustrations to keep your class lively, and maybe come up with a game or two to help them remember these things. In addition to these daily or weekly lessons, you can invite a dentist to class to help you explain the importance of oral hygiene, or perhaps a trained hair dresser to tell your class that it’s alright to have their haircuts and having one wouldn’t hurt them in the least.

  4. Calling 911: You also have to teach your students how to survive in an emergency situation. After all, there can be situations where the caregiver is in trouble and your student is the only person who can call out for help. Teach them how to use the phone to contact 911, but make sure that you stress how these numbers should only be dialed during real emergencies. Teaching your students first aid might be a stretch, but teaching them how to dial these emergency numbers should be handy enough.

Now that you know what life skills to include in your special education (SPED) classes, you can now think of other strategies to teach these skills to your students even better. You have to remember that these life skills will be the backbone of your students’ survival in the real world. If you don’t teach these well, your students might not have the chance to improve themselves and live a normal life.