Functional Skills are essentially the skills we use each and every day as we go about living our lives. Consider that the more Functional Skills/Life Skills learned by individuals with special needs the greater the level of their independence.Functional Skills include:* Getting dressed* Cooking* Cleaning* Laundry* Shopping* Money skills* Getting around the community* Specific work skills* Social skillsFor most of us, learning Functional Skills came easily, but for individuals/students who have special needs (sometimes the term cognitively disabled may be used) learning these skills can be a challenge.
Special Needs students need to have the these important life skills broken down into small steps. Repeated practice of each of these steps allows them to gain a degree of independence. For example; they must first learn a general skill such as addition, and then practice applying the addition skill in different content areas, such as with the concept of money. They then need to specifically practice the addition of money as a separate and new skill.These individuals are also more likely to have difficulty in generalizing these Functional Skills from the classroom setting to the actual environment where they will need to use these skills.The more we can teach Functional Skills in an actual setting, such as the laundromat, kitchen or grocery store, and with the actual material/equipment, the better and easier it will be for the student to learn and apply their skill. It is also best to use material that is already part of their everyday lives such as, their own sweater, actual money, the local city map and bus schedules, menus from nearby restaurants and the local grocery store ads. By using materials that the student is already familiar with, they will be able to grasp the relevance of the skill easier.
In short, the more Functional Skills that are mastered by the special needs student the more independent they are likely to be. Keep in mind that when teaching these life skills, it is important to remember to break the skill down into small achievable steps, teach the skill in an actual environment (or in a realistic environment if possible) and preferably with the use of the actual material/equipment. The student with special needs will have an easier time learning Functional Skills as well as transferring and applying these skills into their everyday lives. Everyone wants and deserves the opportunity to be the best that they can be!