For most people, life skills are something you pick up almost automatically in childhood, through interacting with the world every day. For some people with learning disabilities, it takes a little more effort, and extra support to master these apparent basics. Teaching life skills to adults with learning disabilities is one of the most significant ways to help them to achieve happy and independent lives.
What are life skills?
Life skills are some of the most basic skills we need to survive. It includes decision-making, critical thinking and problem-solving. Communication and interpersonal skills may be included, as may emotional regulation. Then there may be more direct, practical skills such as money management, cleaning, cooking and other household tasks. Sometimes the most basic academic skills, such as reading, may be included.
What is life skills education?
Many schools or courses for people with learning disabilities will include life skills education, as these skills can be particularly difficult for them to master without extra support. Life skills lessons can be used in conjunction with academic studies to complete a comprehensive education.
The format of life skills education may vary depending on individual students, as no two people with learning disabilities will display the same traits. Teachers will frequently need to exercise patience, as students are likely to take a long time to understand even the most basic concepts. Repetition is a valuable tool to help reinforce ideas and behaviour.
Teaching life skills to adults with learning disabilities does not have to be confined to a classroom. It is often beneficial to practice these skills in real-world settings. Performing tasks such as visiting a store to purchase something, which involves a certain amount of planning, a sense of direction, remembering what you want and being able to calculate how much money you need, along with interacting with the staff, involves many life skills. It can be made easier with rehearsal and some kind of coach or support worker available to help with any difficulties
Why teaching life skills to adults with learning disabilities is so important?
People with learning disabilities do not just struggle with classroom academic study. Their difficulties in areas such as reasoning, memory, communication and social interaction can pervade every aspect of their lives. They may forget to wash their hands, be unable to use basic kitchen equipment, or lose track of their money. When faced with novel situations, they may have a particularly difficult time adapting and responding well.
In general, the earlier children are taught life skills, the more likely they will be successful as adults. Teaching life skills to adults can be more difficult, as they may be more set in their ways and have already developed entrenched habits. Without life skills, however, they may never be able to live independently, or at least with minimal support. Being able to keep their own home or hold down a job means acquiring some life skills.
They may seem very basic, but life skills can be difficult for people with learning disabilities to master. Life skills education is how you teach them the things they need to survive, and even thrive, as independent adults in the modern world.