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Resources to support functional and life skills for children and young people during school closures.

Young tomato plants. Image: Kaboompics.com via Pexels

Whilst academic work set by schools remains important, we also want to support you in considering some functional and life skills that children and young people can be learning at this time. The great thing about many of the suggestions are that they feel either like play or are part of everyday life and routines already. 

We have compiled a list of resources related to:


Independent living skills

When carrying out household chores, consider how your child or young person can get involved. This is both key to their development but also means that you are doing tasks together and so you do not always need to do them once it has passed bedtime.

Putting the washing away 

Model how to fold t-shirts and assign this role or ask the child to match up all the socks. Once the socks have been matched and balled, turn this into a game. Place the empty washing basket in the middle of the room and see if you can score a goal by getting the socks in the basket.

Laying the table

Draw out a placemat on a piece of paper with the plate, knife, spoon and fork as outlines. Make one for each person who is going to be eating. Model to the child placing this on the table and then matching the correct items. This can become a job that the child does on a daily basis. Over time, you may not need the visual guide. 

Gardening

If you have an outdoor space, then watering is a really nice responsibility for a child or young person. If you don’t have any outdoor space, you can do some really fun indoor growing activities where you can use food scraps:

How Do I

‘How Do I’ started off when some sixth form tutors at a SEN school were looking at enhancing technology to support young people carry out independent living tasks.

They utilise NFC-enabled stickers, for example on a kettle, where a video pops up when the sticker is scanned on the young person’s phone showing the steps needed to make a cup of tea.

The company have grown and are now supporting those with dementia and learning disabilities as well as taking their technology into workplaces:

Preparing for adulthood

Thinking about life beyond school may not be on everyone’s agenda right now, but if you are nearing a key transition point, this Preparing for Adulthood document shares lots of great ideas and resources for supporting the development of key independent living skills.

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Money matters

Developing understanding of money can start early by playing games like ‘5 currant buns in the bakers shop’ and handing over coins as you buy each bun, or, setting up a shop using tins in the cupboards. 

As children grow, developing understanding of money is a key skill in independent living. Dosh have some easy read guides and videos and has been created specifically for people with learning disabilities: 

TopMarks have a wealth of online learning activities for children and young people. They have a great selection of games to develop money awareness. The Coin Cruncher and Custom Car Garage are real favourites.

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Self-care and dressing

Backward chaining

Backward chaining is a term you may often hear occupational therapists use. It is a technique for learning a new skill that breaks it down into small chunks and then starts at the last step, so that the child or young person completes their goal. 

An example could be putting on a coat. Support the child or young person up to the point of pulling the zip the last third, then encourage them to do this section. The next time, you may require them to pull the zip from the bottom etc. 

This guide offers ideas for a number of clothing items:

Alternatively, here is a short video on the backwards coat trick:

Dressing skills

Hertfordshire Community Occupational Therapy Team have created a great resource all about the skills needed to dress, the typical developmental stages and strategies to support learning the skills for different items of clothes:

Tying shoe laces can be really challenging, you need bilateral coordination, hand-eye coordination and visual perception skills to name a few. There are some good products available to avoid this such as elastic shoe laces.

If you are looking for a good strategy to tie laces, this is a video showcasing one that works well: 

Brushing teeth

Visual Aids for Learning have created picture cards for many self-care skills. This one is for supporting brushing teeth:

Handwashing

Handwashing has never been as important. Sensory Integration Education have compiled a great resource on this topic. They use their expertise on sensory processing needs to consider the challenges that handwashing poses and link to some great resources:

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Keeping well

Widget Health have created easy read and communication support for healthcare and medical professions:

This includes a range of topics such as: 

Mencap have produced easy read documents based on the governments advice on Covid-19 and these are updated as the recommendations change: 

Keeping active

Keeping active is key during this time and being creative at home is more important than ever as there are limits to going outside. Here are some suggestions to activities you can do together:

Activity 1

  1. Create a set of cards that have the numbers 1-5 and movements such as jump, star jump, hop, skip, crawl, roll.
  2. Put the number cards in one pile and the movement cards in another.
  3. Encourage the child(ren) to take a card from each pile, identify the number and then carry out the movement the amount of times the number indicates.

If you have a printer, you can find some flashcards here:

Activity 2

  1. Using masking tape if inside (or chalk if outside), mark out some lines and zigzags on the floor.
  2. Encourage the child(ren) to walk along them, crawl along them, tip toe, go backwards, hop etc. They can then even use cars to go up and down.
  3. To include oral motor skills in this activity, find a light ball (ping pong ball) and a straw. Place the ball at one end of the line, the child needs to crouch down and then blow through the straw to move the ball.
  4. If you have more than one child in the house, set them up from races or use a timer and keep track of how long it takes.

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