Basic life skills are fundamental for living at least a semi-independent life. The lockdown period presents the opportunity for parents to spend more time developing basic skills such as washing hands, brushing teeth and making a sandwich with their children.

Children with developmental delays learn differently from typical children because they may have sensory or cognitive challenges that stand in their way. The following techniques can be very effective in teaching adaptive living skills to children with special needs:

  • Task analysis is the process of summarising tasks into separate steps. For instance, brushing teeth comprises using a toothbrush, putting toothpaste on the brush, brushing the teeth, rinsing, cleaning the brush, and putting it away.
  • Visual guides help children with special needs to make sense of, remember, and get comfortable with the steps involved in a task. A visual guide can include photos or icons of each step in a process.
  • Prompting and fading involves physical, ‘hand-over-hand’ help which will gradually decrease as a child gets to grips with a task. When parents’ verbal prompts start to fade and are no longer required at all, it can be said that the child has successfully learnt that particular skill.
  • Stories entail using pictures and words to illustrate expected behaviour rather than just listing steps to be followed. Parents can create and describe stories that depict everyday tasks for their child to learn as often as needed, until a child understands the task off by heart and can complete all the steps without any help.
  • Apps designed to guide children through specific activities or experiences may benefit older children or children with milder issues. Basic calendar and scheduling apps could also benefit children by helping them to organise certain tasks or their time.

The techniques explained above are used by therapists, teachers and caregivers but they are simple enough for parents to use or create from everyday materials at home.

At Sunshine Centre Association, we support children with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities, their families and communities. We also offer a range of courses aimed at supporting professionals, caregivers, communities and families in their stimulation and development of children with disabilities. For more information about how you can enrol for a course, or about the Sunshine Centre Association in general, please contact 011 642 2005 or send an email to info@sunshine.org.za.