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Self Help Skills: Life Skills and Autism

Self-help skills are a vital aspect of daily living for all individuals. These skills allow us to take care of ourselves independently and effectively. Self-help skills include tasks such as dressing, grooming, eating, and toileting. For individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developing self-help skills can be particularly challenging due to their unique sensory and behavioral characteristics. In this article, we will explore what self-help skills are, why they are essential for individuals with ASD, and how to teach self-help skills to students with autism.

What are self-help skills?

Self-help skills are a set of daily living tasks that enable individuals to function independently. These skills include personal hygiene, dressing, grooming, eating, and toileting. Developing self-help skills is crucial for individuals with ASD, as it allows them to become more independent and self-sufficient in their daily lives.

Why are self-help skills essential for individuals with ASD?

Individuals with ASD often have difficulties with sensory processing, social communication, and behavioral regulation. These challenges can impact their ability to develop self-help skills and, consequently, affect their daily living activities. Teaching self-help skills to individuals with ASD can provide them with a sense of independence and control, which can improve their quality of life and self-esteem. Additionally, developing self-help skills can prepare individuals with ASD for greater independence as they transition into adulthood.

Importance of assessing an individual’s current skills:

Before teaching life skills to an individual with disabilities, it is essential to assess their current skills. Assessing an individual’s current skills can help identify areas of strength and weakness and guide instruction. An assessment can also help determine the individual’s learning style, which can inform the teaching approach. There are several types of assessments that can be used, including informal observations, formal assessments, and parent or caregiver interviews.

Teaching life skills at home:

Teaching life skills at home can be a great way to reinforce skills learned in school or therapy sessions. Here are some tips for teaching life skills at home:

Start small: Begin with simple tasks, such as sorting laundry or setting the table. As the individual’s skills develop, gradually increase the complexity of the tasks.

Incorporate daily routines: Incorporate life skill tasks into the individual’s daily routine, such as having them help with meal preparation or grocery shopping.

Provide opportunities for choice: Giving the individual a choice in which life skill task to complete can help increase motivation and engagement.

Use natural consequences: If the individual makes a mistake or forgets a step in a life skill task, allow natural consequences to occur, such as a burnt meal or an untidy room. This can help the individual learn from their mistakes and take ownership of their actions.

How to teach self-help skills to students with autism:

Teaching self-help skills to students with autism requires patience, creativity, and individualized instruction. Here are some strategies for teaching self-help skills to students with autism:

Use visual supports: Visual supports, such as picture schedules or social stories, can help individuals with ASD understand and remember the steps involved in a self-help task. Visual supports can be particularly helpful for individuals who struggle with language comprehension or memory retention.

Break down the task: Breaking down a self-help task into smaller, manageable steps can make the task more accessible for students with autism. For example, if teaching a student to brush their teeth, break the task down into smaller steps, such as wetting the toothbrush, adding toothpaste, brushing each tooth, and rinsing.

Provide positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement can be a powerful motivator for students with autism. Praise and rewards for completing a self-help task can encourage the student to repeat the behavior in the future.

Practice regularly: Repetition and practice are crucial for developing self-help skills. Encourage the student to practice the self-help task regularly, and provide feedback and support as needed.

Use multi-sensory strategies: Individuals with ASD often respond well to multi-sensory strategies, such as using tactile cues or music to enhance learning. Incorporating multi-sensory strategies into self-help skill instruction can make the task more engaging and memorable for the student.


Developing self-help skills is an essential aspect of daily living for all individuals, and it is particularly crucial for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Teaching self-help skills to students with autism requires individualized instruction, patience, and creativity. By using visual supports, breaking down tasks, providing positive reinforcement, practicing regularly, and incorporating multi-sensory strategies, educators and caregivers can support the development of self-help skills in students with autism. Developing self-help skills can improve the quality of life and independence of individuals with ASD, preparing them for greater success in adulthood.

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