Functional Skills are defined as life skills that people use every day, in different environments. Functional skills focus on different areas such as home, family, self help skills, social skills, independent living skills. Also, skills needed for employment and job retention, recreation, community living, as well as functional academics that can be used every day.
While academic skills are important for all children with disabilities, many parents and advocates seem to overlook, the importance of functional skill training and instruction. These skills need to be addressed during a child’s school career, but absolutely during the child’s transition from high school to adulthood.
Reasons that children need functional skills:
1. To be prepared for post school learning. One functional skill that is often overlooked is social skills, but is important for not only post school learning but in every aspect of a child’s life. If the child attends a vocational program after high school they need to learn to interact with other students as well as teachers.
2. To be prepared for employment. A lot of functional skills are used every day, during job hours. For example: Employers expect workers to come in clean, and in uniform. The functional skill of grooming and making sure that they are groomed properly and in uniform, may need to be taught to some children with disabilities, as it may not come natural to them.
3. To be prepared for independent living. Some children with severe disabilities may never be able to live by themselves, but can be taught skills to be independent, in certain areas. These areas could be dressing and grooming, picking what they are going to wear, learning to match clothing to the weather, etc.
Accessing transportation is another functional skill that children with disabilities may need specific instruction in. For example: How to access the bus system, how to read the bus schedule, and how to determine what bus to take to make it to work on time, and back home. Being independent in the area of transportation is an important skill for a child with disabilities to have.
Money skills are also important for children with disabilities to learn. Other skills that are critical to learn for independent living are: How to open a bank account, how to sign checks, how to set up a budget and how to pay bills. Cooking and shopping are other functional skills that young people with disabilities need to receive instruction in.
One area that is often overlooked when thinking about functional skills is the importance of children with disabilities learning appropriate behavior. This is the one aspect that will keep a child or adult from being able to live and work in a community setting. An appropriately developed positive behavioral plan will help a child increase their positive school behavior while decreasing their negative behavior. Specific training needs to be given to the child so that they can learn appropriate behavior, and how to act in school, at a job, and in community settings.
Functional skills are important for all children and soon to be adults with disabilities to learn! They will help the child become as independent as possible as they can be in their life!