For autistic teenagers and young adults, learning life skills is crucial to achieving independence and living a fulfilling life. As parents, caregivers, and teachers you want to provide the best support, but finding the right resources can be overwhelming. This is where setting life skill goals comes in. 

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure for further details.

Life Skill Goals and Why You Should Set Them

Life skill goals are measurable objectives that help your autistic teenager or young adult gain independence and confidence. An area to start with is with activities of daily living skills and instrumental activities of daily living skills. Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are things you do every day to take care of yourself and your home. They are one way to measure how well you can live on your own. While activities of daily living (ADLs) are basic self-care tasks like showering and personal hygiene skills. IADLs require more complex planning and thinking. This could include meal preparation, and money management skills. By using smart strategies, you can use ADLs and IADLs to help you develop achievable life skill goals for your loved one. 

Practical Strategies to Help Autistic Teens and Young Adults

Here are some strengths-based and neurodiversity-affirming resources that can help you support your autistic teenager or young adult in achieving their life skill goals. 

  • Use Visual Aids and Social Stories: Autistic people often learn best through visual aids and engaging stories to help them process complex concepts. You can use pictures, diagrams, or written instructions that will help them learn and remember tasks. 
  • Break Down Tasks Into Steps: Smaller tasks are easier for your loved one to manage. For example, if you want to teach them how to brush their teeth, start by explaining how to pick out a toothbrush, put the toothpaste on, wet the brush, and so on. 
  • Encourage Independence: It’s vital to encourage your loved one to do tasks on their own as much as possible. This helps them gain a sense of accomplishment and build confidence at the same time. 
  • Focus on Strengths Rather Than Weaknesses: Everyone has unique interests, drives, and strengths. When setting life skill goals, focus on your loved one’s strong points to keep them engaged and motivated. 
  • Don’t Stop Until You Establish a Routine: Repetition is key to learning new skills, especially for those on the spectrum. Make sure to practice life skills regularly, and provide feedback along the way. Positive reinforcement is a charm, so motivate your loved one as they develop their routine.

8 Life Skill Goals to Help your Teenager Learn

With life skill goals, you give agency to your teenager to focus on areas most important to them and, by doing so, develop their independence and self-reliance. These life skills include:

1. People Skills

Help your teenager learn how to make friends, ask for help, hold a conversation, work in groups, and be a part of a community. 

2. Self-Advocacy 

Teach your child how to take care of their needs by integrating social skills and setting boundaries. Remember to help your teenager learn how to ask questions, who to ask them to, and when to say no. 

3. Personal Safety

Protect your child’s safety by teaching them how to avoid risky situations, be aware of stranger danger, and, if something bad happens, how to call 911. Focus on red flags and how your child can identify them to keep a safe distance.

Get the Free Life Skills Curriculum Year-at-a-Glance Plan

CLICK HERE or on the image below to get the FREE life skills year-at-a-glance plan to help you save time and be organized with teaching life skills each month!

Life Skills Curriculum Year at a Glance Planner

4. Self-Care

Help your teenager understand the importance of taking care of themselves by highlighting hygiene, nutrition, physical activity, and more. You can do so by using personal hygiene self-care tasks that will make the process easier.

5. Daily Living Skills

Aid your teenager or young adult with shopping, cooking meals, using public transport, or doing chores until they assert a level of independence. Make sure to provide visual aids, verbal prompts, and other strategies for the process.

6. Executive Functioning Skills

Help your teen stay organized by teaching them how to manage their time and set a routine. Remember to be patient and use practical techniques for task initiation, or you could overwhelm them.

7. Job Skills

Guide your teen on their self-discovery by explaining the importance of self-reliance. Help them find jobs that match their strengths, teach them about volunteering, or contact local businesses that showcase interesting programs.

8. Emotional Management

Help your teen identify, understand and work through their emotions by using affirmations, open-heart discussions, and journaling. You can also use a Free Calm Down Strategies toolkit when things get too intense.  

One of the most convenient strategies to organize your child’s life skill goals is to use a checklist. The resources offered on Learning for a Purpose cover a range of areas, including communication, self-care, social skills, and daily living skills. 

You can also get a Free Life Skills Checklist that will help you understand what your autistic teenager needs to learn on their way.

life skills checklist
Click the image of the life skills checklist to be able to download your own copy.

Keeping Track of Your Child’s Life Skill Goals

When you work with a teenager or young adult, it can be hard to measure their progress.

You can use this framework to help measure progress on their life skill goals by involving four key components:

  1. The specific behavior or skill to be achieved
  2. The conditions under which the behavior or skill will be demonstrated
  3. The criteria for measuring the success rate
  4. The timeframe for achieving this goal

For example, a life skill goal using this formula might be “Anna will improve her personal hygiene skills by washing her hands before she eats and after using the restroom. She will do this with minimal verbal cues with 100% accuracy, by the end of the school year.” This goal is specific, measurable, achievable, and, most importantly, time-conscious. 

While monitoring Anna’s progress towards this life skill goal, parents or caregivers can help her develop the personal hygiene care skills she needs. If Anna doesn’t show enough progress, her parents or caregivers can jump right in and adjust interventions as needed. This will ensure that Anna is receiving the support she needs to achieve her full potential so that real progress can be made.

Think about Daily Life Skill Goals They will Need

It is important to think about the daily tasks that the individual will need to complete in order to live independently. This will help daily living skills goals and daily living skill interventions be tailored specifically to the needs of the teen.

Daily living skills goals and objectives are important for teenagers to achieve independence in their daily lives. By setting realistic goals and objectives, teachers and therapists can help them work towards independence in daily living skills.

Areas of need and areas of strength should be considered when setting daily living skills goals and objectives. Additionally, it is important to think about what daily life will look like for the individual and develop goals and objectives that reflect their needs.

Occupational Therapists can Help Develop Life Skill Goals

Occupational therapists are experts in daily living skills who can help set daily living goals, individualized daily living skills teaching, and guide daily living skill interventions. They are part of related services listed on the child’s IEP. Occupational therapists are trained to teach daily living skills to students with special needs using methods that are engaging for the student. If you are looking for more help with this area reach out to your pediatrician, school, or local occupational therapist to help you.

Helping Youth With Compassion, Guidance and Support

No matter how dedicated you are to your teenagers development, the process can be long, gruesome, and overwhelming. But, with the assistance of specialized support platforms, you can feel calm and confident in knowing you’re providing the best care for your teen. 

Learning for a Purpose has all the resources that will ease your burden, along with free checklists and planning guides. Save time by having everything drawn out for you, and support your teenager’s independence with all the life skill goals they need.

Life skill goals: Helping you teach independence