Teaching Our Daughter Life Skills Early

When we have children we teach them all the skills we feel are necessary for them to be able to move out of home and live independent lives.  This isn’t usually a conscious lesson by us it is usually carried out over the many years (say around 20 years) they live with you at home.  They learn though observation of these tasks and you showing them initially.  Most tasks can be carried out by them after only a small number of attempts.

As a mother of a child with special needs I have learnt we don’t have the pleasure of her learning on her own by observation.  No matter how many times she watches or listens to me show her a task she will either never be able to do it without visuals or prompting or without thousands of attempts with or without assistance.  She has dyspraxia (where the messages get mixed up so motor planning is difficult) as well as other disabilities so the only way she learns anything is through practice.

My daughter is a very determined, stubborn girl thankfully for us so she is willing to spend a lot of time practicing skills until she succeeds.  She gets great pleasure and pride from even the smallest of successes like getting one sock on or getting herself undressed.  She taught herself to take a shirt off at night in the dark.  She would go to bed and when we got her up in the morning her shirt would be off or inside out.  After many shirtless mornings she perfected this task.  She has perfected many other tasks as well since this and we are so proud of her determination.

I have come to the realisation, now that she is 11 years old, that I need to start teaching her more complex life skills for independent living.  She has been learning basic life skills for years already at home and at school.  Her school have a great life skills program and I compliment them for that.  But it may take years for her to be able to successfully complete more complex tasks independently such as shopping, loading/unloading a dishwasher, washing clothes, safe food preparation etc.

People ask me what I want for her in the future.  My answer is “I want her to be happy and to live as independent life as possible for her whatever that is”.  

I don’t actually know whether she will ever leave home but I want to give her the greatest chance of being able to live independently knowing that her determination has got her a long way already.    If she ends up living with us at least she will be able to still be independent within our home and have a sense of worth as she won’t have to rely on others to get things done.


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