How to Teach the Developmentally Disabled Life Skills

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When an individual is developmentally disabled, life skills can be a challenge. But some disabilities are easier to overcome than others, and people with developmental disabilities can learn life skills with the help of a willing teacher. Teaching skills, such as cleaning or basic cooking, takes time and patience, but is rewarding in the end.

  • Teach one skill at a time. Developmentally disabled adults can learn life skills, slowly and repeatedly. Teaching someone with a developmental disability to make a bed, sweep a floor, and make coffee all in one morning can cause confusion. Instead, train him just to make a bed that morning.

  • Show one step at a time. When presenting a new skill, each action should be demonstrated and completed before moving on. Many life skills require several steps to complete, so teaching a new skill requires time. For example, when explaining how to make coffee, show how to put the water into the coffee maker repeatedly until that skill is mastered.

  • Replicate new skills daily until the skill is mastered. Developmentally disabled men and women need practice in life skills to master them and that means repeating new skills until they become competent. If making the bed is a new task, make sure they make the bed every morning.

  • Repeat mastered tasks often. To ensure that a developmentally disabled individual remembers learned skills, allow him to repeat the skill often. Repetiition improves task memory.

  • Set a routine. Developmentally disabled men and women function best with a fixed routine to follow. Start each day by making the bed, then getting dressed, and then eating breakfast. This reinforces skills and makes it easier to remember and to apply in life. Routine develops habits, reinforces life skills, and helps those with developmental disabilities focus on each task.

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  • Photo Credit old man holding his walking cane image by Gina Smith from Fotolia.com
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