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Life Skills Instruction

Life skills instruction develops students' daily living skills. Research has shown that students with disabilities, who exit high school with proficient life skills, have better postschool outcomes than those students who do not (Roessler, Brolin, Johnson, 1990).


While most teachers identify independent living skills (i.e. cooking, personal hygiene, money skills, and street safety) as life skills, there are additional areas considered life skills. Life skills instruction also can include (Roll over each of these terms for a definition):


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Students with age-appropriate life skills may not need additional instruction beyond those taught in general education classes or at home. Elective classes, such as personal finance or adult roles and responsibilities, may be enough to develop a student's skills. Other students may need additional instruction and practice which can be found in a functional curriculum. Regardless of the setting for instruction, it is important that evidence-based practices are used by teachers when implementing curriculum.


Community-Based Instruction

 Before we move on, let's test your knowledge of community-based instruction.

 Activity not available on mobile devices (description

Activity not available on mobile devices (description)


Some students with disabilities struggle to generalize information from one activity to another and across settings (Snell and Brown, 2011). The goal of community-based instruction (CBI) is to provide students the opportunity to learn skills in the natural environment with real materials. CBI allows students to repeatedly practice in the natural setting and increase their ability to retain the needed skills (Steere and DiPipi-Hoy, 2012).

 Community-based instruction is especially effective for teaching life skills and employment skills. It enables a teacher and student to identify the supports that are necessary for success as well as practice using those supports in real-life settings.  The following video demonstrates some of the content that could to be included in a CBI for a student learning street safety.

We realize there may be limitations conducting community-based instruction as frequently as you would like. Click HERE to read the article which identifies ways to reinforce community-based instruction in your classroom and school building (Steere & DiPipip-Hoy, 2012).


Example of Evidence-Based Practice: Using Instructional Strategy of Video Modeling to Teach Life Skill

Video modeling is an instructional strategy to teach specific skills. Video modeling allows students to learn a skill by watching the task being performed repeatedly. Then the student practices the skills (Neumann, L. 2004). For example, the video below would be watched by students prior to a cooking activity to teach them the specific skills associated with preventing cooking fires (Mechling, Gast and Gustafson, 2009). The use of video modeling as a prompt during the activity rather than using a physical or verbal prompt by staff is currently being researched. With the availability of portable technology, this strategy is a promising practice for supporting people with disabilities.



Evidence-based Practice: Using Peer Mentoring as an Instructional Strategy

Data shows that if a peer has been given a clear role and instructions on how to support a student with a disability, peer mentoring is an effective instructional method (Hughes, Carter, Hughes, Bradford, & Copeland, 2002). Peer mentoring provides instruction and support in an age-appropriate way. For example, if a peer mentor supports a student with a disability to ride the city bus, the instruction and supports look very typical. Peer mentors can help students with disabilities access general education classes, become included in the school, and develop friendships. Peer mentors can serve in a variety of roles: friend, role model, coach and/or supporter.



Center on Community Living and Careers, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community (CCLC)

CCLC focuses on career development, secondary education and transition to adult life and services, person-directed planning, benefits, community inclusion, and systems and policy analysis.

iPad Learning Cohorts is a project with G0 WISE (Washington Initiative for Supported Employment) in Washington State.This project has developed a list of ipad apps, cost, description, and devices which may be helpful to develop independence for people with disabilities. Click here to download the app list.



inPromptu is an iPad, iPod, iPhone application which may be downloaded through itunes. This app is designed to assist individuals with significant intellectual disabilities with acquiring and maintaining daily living skills using video technology, as shown on the left.To learn more visit


Looking for more apps that could support your students' independence? Check out BridgingApps which allows you to search for apps that meet your student's specific needs. Click HERE to start a search.





National Gateway to Self-Determination 
Resources for individuals with disabilities, parents and professionals for developing self-determination skills.


National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center

NSTTAC helps states build capacity to support and improve transition planning, services, and outcomes for youth with disabilities and disseminate information and provide technical assistance.


Peer Mentoring: Learning Together is a curriculum which is FREE to Indiana educators. Click HERE to order.