For autistic people, learning life skills is essential to increase independence at home, at school and in the community.

Some autistic people can often find it difficult to learn and manage everyday tasks like:

Daily tasks

Activities of daily living are the routines people undertake on a regular or daily basis, and often take for granted, these include:

  • Meal times: preparing & eating regularly, (e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner).
  • Self-care: showering or bathing, getting dressed, cleaning teeth, doing hair and clipping nails.
  • Sleeping
  • Toileting

Because of this, it can be helpful to break down daily tasks into steps that will allow you to learn how to manage and take control of daily routines and activities.

Steps to help you learn new skills

Step one: Choose and understand the skill

Think about certain skills and choose a particular skill that needs to be developed. This may be brushing teeth, dressing or toileting.

Step two: Identify a goal

Choose a goal that suits your age and ability. Choose one goal at a time. If, for instance, having a shower in a timely way is a skill you’d like to develop, you could focus the goal on getting ready for the shower.

Step three: Break it down

Break down the task into steps. For example, getting ready for a shower has a number of steps which lead to the ultimate goal.

1. Getting your towel out of the cupboard
2. Putting the towel in a place for you to reach after the shower
3. Making sure your toiletry items that you need such as shampoo, body wash are in the shower
4. Having a mat to step onto after the shower if needed
5. Turning the shower on to the correct temperature

A family member or friend could model the process for you to watch or a video of the process can be helpful. You might find it useful to draw the process, use pictures or photos. Visuals give us a mental picture of what to expect.

Getting ready to shower visual aid

Then you can move to the next goal, which would be to have a shower and break down the steps of this process. Then get out of the shower, dry off after the shower and so on.

Your goals will be individual to you, and you can break the skills down as much as you want or need to make them easier to get to.

Another aspect to learning and completing daily tasks and life skills is executive functioning skills. This is explained in more detail in our ‘Autism and executive functioning skills’ article.

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