Feel Successful and Confident Teaching Life Skills

Feel Successful and Confident Teaching Life Skills

Feel Confident and Successful Teaching Life Skills

Inside: Learn how to analyze your teaching session to reflect and make a plan for helping you create a meaningful and successful learning opportunity. 

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You set up the perfect learning session with a kiddo to work on teaching them life skills by having the materials all setup and ready, in a quiet environment, and the steps of the activity written out for them to follow. You model and show them what you want them to do and you are there to support them and guide them as they are learning this new activity. Then halfway through the session things start to take a turn for the worse. 

The individual is not focused, they can’t work on this skill anymore and they are just done. They get up and walk away or they start to throw the objects in front of them. They are overloaded and frustrated. 

You think to yourself, what did I do wrong? 

How can I teach them this skill if they won’t even work with me for longer than 5 minutes?

You think to yourself, I am such a failure.

What you Should Know About Teaching Life Skills

Every individual you work with and every teaching session is going to be different with a different outcome. Some sessions may go as planned and you feel like a rockstar, other times though it may be an epic fail and that is when you start to question your ability to teach life skills. 

Whether you are an occupational therapist, a teacher, or a parent we all have times when teaching a new skill will either go well or not so well. 

I am here to help you get back on your feet and feel a little bit more like a rockstar when it comes to teaching life skills even after a session that went horribly wrong. 

Because as an occupational therapist I have felt defeated and overwhelmed and lacked my own confidence when teaching a kiddo a new skill. 

Over the years I have realized that every teaching session and every individual I work with is going to be different based on so many factors. I wanted to create a way to help you feel more confident and successful when teaching life skills so I created a Free Problem Solving Checklist for you to use to reflect on your teaching sessions and help you make a plan for your next session. 

How to Problem Solve What is Going on When Teaching Life Skills

You are probably wondering what do I do after a teaching session doesn’t go well? The first thing I like to do is to remind myself “I am a good therapist.” My heart is in the right place and I am here trying to help them learn something new. 

Use positive words and phrases to talk about yourself, because if we start to get too down on ourselves, how can we best support the individuals we are working with?

The next question I like to ask myself is, “How can I make the session meaningful for the client I am working with?”


The first area I want you to think about as you problem-solve a teaching session is Motivation. Is this life skill that I am teaching a goal of the client/individual? Do they understand why working on this skill is important to them?

If they are not motivated to work on this skill with you, is there a way that you can help motivate them or can you help them understand why this skill is important to work on? The answers to these questions will vary for each individual and this is when you get to put your creative juices together to help figure out how to motivate them or how to make this goal meaningful to them. 

Other areas to think about with motivation are is the individual having a hard day? Are they feeling sick or are there other outside factors going on that are affecting them right now?

We are all entitled to having bad or off days and sometimes it can be hard when those days happen to be the days we are working with them. 

If this is the case and they are just having an off day, is there a way that you can make the session fun for them? Could you change up the teaching session and create a positive experience for them? Because sometimes it isn’t always about teaching the specific skill as it is just helping form a positive relationship with the individual to help them gain your trust.  

Motor Skills Involved

The next area to think about and analyze about a session are the specific physical motor skills involved to complete the life skill. Do they have the strength, endurance, fine motor skills, etc to complete the steps of the skill you are working on? If they don’t have the motor skills to complete a specific step how can you help them either learn those motor skills or is there a way to accommodate or change that step to be completed in a way that they can be successful with that step?

Environmental Set-Up

The next area to think about is the materials you are using to teach the skill and the environment you are teaching in. Can they use and access all of the materials that are needed to complete the skill? Are they distracted in this environment? Do they need any other additional supports? 

Ask yourself these questions and really take some time to figure out if there would be a better set up for teaching the skill you are working on. 

Teaching the Skill

Think about how you taught the skill to the individual, did they understand what was expected of them? Did they have enough time to process each step or were they distracted? Analyzing how you actually taught the skill can take some time to get used to and may take some time at first. Think about how you spoke to the individual, how you reacted when they did something, or think about how they reacted when you did something? Taking time to reflect on how the actual teaching session went with how you reacted and the individual reacted can help you better understand how to work on that skill next time. If they responded well to something, try doing more of that next session or if something didn’t go well think about how you could improve upon that for the next session. 

Actions or Emotions

Each individual will have different reactions and emotions towards us when we are working with them. Things to keep in mind and consider when working with someone is do they have any fear or anxiety with learning this skill? Do they have a hard time keeping their attention or are they distracted easily? 

If you feel overwhelmed with trying to understand how the individual may be feeling, please seek out additional support with medical advice or professional services to better help and assist the individual you are working with. 


The last area to think about when teaching life skills could be sensory related. When you were teaching them were they upset by smells, lights, movements, sounds, or taste? We are constantly surrounded by sensory information in our day to day life and each individual will respond differently to sensory input and we just need to be aware that this may also affect how they learn when teaching them life skills.

What to do: Reflection and Making a Plan

Now that I have given you some ideas and tips on areas to analyze and reflect on after a teaching session, I want to help you feel successful with your next teaching session by helping you make a plan. 

By identifying some problem areas you can now feel better about the next session and create a clear action plan for the next session. To make it easy for you, I just want you to think about one problem area that you identified and think of one or multiple solutions to this problem area that you could change for next time. 

Another way to think about this is also by creating an if-then problem statement to help you. For example, If the client starts to get distracted then I will let them take a 5-minute physical activity break by doing a gross motor game with them. 

By creating a plan and being able to reflect on each teaching session, this will help you feel confident and successful when teaching life skills. 

Download your FREE Problem Solving Cheat Sheet for Teaching Life Skills

Use this cheat sheet to help you reflect on your teaching sessions, make a plan, and help you feel confident and successful when teaching life skills!

  1. Download the free cheat sheet. Join my newsletter and as a bonus, you’ll get the printable! Just enter your email in the box below to subscribe! 
  2. Print it out or use it on your computer to help you problem solve your next teaching session.
  3. Use it to make a plan for your next teaching session and help you feel confident and successful when teaching life skills!  


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