Skills-Based Routine

A young man complete a step in a skills-based routine by using a salad spinner to wash and dry lettuce for a salad.
A young man complete a step in a skills-based routine by using a salad spinner to wash and dry lettuce for a salad.

For this type of routine we have a definite skill we are trying to teach. For instance, the skill of dressing means you must dress in a certain order or you might end up with your socks on the outside your shoes. There is a very definite skill set that must be learned in order to drive a car. Having said this, we should always try to infuse as much language, and real life experiences into our routines as we can.

Focusing on developing independence in completing tasks is a process. At the earliest level, we may only be hoping for partial participation in the routine with the teacher carrying out most or all of the steps while the child watches either visually or tactually. This is what Dr. Lilli Nielsen refers to as “sharing the work”. Over time as the child becomes competent in completing steps, the adult steps back until the time comes when the child can do the entire routine independently. At this level the student begins to understand the “consequences” of not following the steps in sequence or not doing the activity at all. For example, if you turn on the blender before you put on the lid, juice will splash everywhere. If you don’t want to make the smoothie you won’t have one to drink. This level of completion requires a certain emotional maturity in a student that individuals who are emotionally at a younger developmental level are not ready for yet.

Activities or daily living are often routines that focus on learning specific skills and are also activities that the child is already familiar with doing. 

Taking into account our student’s likes and dislikes should be a big part of the process too. If the student is very interested in a salad spinner or a coffee grinder for example, we can build a skill-based routine around making a salad or preparing coffee. These are things that might be helpful for the student to know how to do later in life, too!

Things to consider when building skills based routines:

    • Infuse as much communication as possible.
    • Embed choices so students have control over the routine.
    • Consider your students’ likes and dislikes – i.e. if they don’t like to brush teeth, what else can be included that they do like in the broader context of a grooming routine?
    • Consider your likes and dislikes.
    • Make it fun for everyone involved!
    • Make it functional!
    • Does this routine move your student closer to being independent? 



Matt Teaches Nick a Grooming Routine

In this video you will see Nick practicing a grooming routine. Nick’s goals are not just to learn to file his nails, and brush his hair, but the concept of “By yourself” is a huge part of this routine.