For many Speech-Language Pathologists working with adolescents and young adults, incorporating life skills into speech therapy sessions was not taught in graduate school. In fact, most of us Speech-Language Pathologists have never been taught that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004) federally mandates transitional topics be included in a student’s individual education plan starting at age 14. These topics include, but are not limited to vocational skills, community participation, and independent living skills. That being said, as a part of a student’s team, we have a responsibility to ensure that our objectives and activities consider functional communication skills, in order to help our students best meet communication demands during all activities of daily living. Our students are relying on their team to be exposed to and taught a variety of life skills across various settings, so that they may successfully transition out of high school and into group or semi-independent living situations. The research supports that individuals with disabilities need direct instruction on following directions, requesting assistance, and using appropriate vocabulary in the workplace (Levinson & Palmer, 2005). Working on functional communication and life skills can be incredibly empowering and rewarding for the students that we service.
Here are my top 5 activities to work on Communication and Life Skills with Adolescents and Young Adults:
- Boom Cards and Teaches Pay Teachers Life Skills Activities:
If you aren’t already familiar with the Boom Learning platform, you absolutely will want to take my word and check it out! You can search the Boom Learning website or Teachers Pay Teachers for specific life skills activities, and find a plethora of interactive, digital task cards that are practical, fun, and functional. There are also many great options available on Teachers Pay Teachers for static PDfs, interactive PDFs, task box printables, and Google slides. For my life skills activities on Teachers Pay Teachers that I have created to meet communication demands, you can click HERE.
- Age-appropriate Workbooks for Life Skills Practice:
Some of my most functional and productive therapy sessions have come directly out of my well-loved, dog-eared, and absolute favorite life skills workbooks that always have a special place reserved in my therapy bag. These tried and true resources are guaranteed to provide you with an activity that is relatable, practical, and relevant from books by Attainment Company, LinguiSystems, Remedia Publications, and PRO-ED.
3. Build-In Phone Apps
Our phones have some of the best built-in apps to support life skills for the students we work with! We can teach students how to use the clock and calendar to practice setting an alarm, managing sleep schedules, and schedule regularly occurring activities. We can encourage students to use the camera and take pictures and videos of activities and sequences at work that they can later reference and use as visual supports, such as steps within a task, or video modeling. Phones have some amazing features built right into them, so consider some of these built-in supports for communication and executive functioning skills.
For those of us that have the luxury of having access to a kitchen when working with adolescents and young adults, meal planning and cooking tasks are incredible ways that we can help these students prepare for functional independence. From planning menus and writing shopping lists, to using a microwave oven and stove, we can incorporate basic safety and cooking procedures, following directions to complete a recipe, and understanding basic measurements of quantity into our therapy sessions. Some of my favorite cooking and communication activities are made by Katelyn from The communication Classroom. You can access some of her cooking and communication activities by clicking HERE.
5. Community Outings
Of course one of my most favorite ways to target life skills with my adolescent and young adult students is to get out in the community and get practical, hands-on experience while engaging in a variety of activities to promote independence. An example of one of my preferred community-based outings that I often use to target functional communication related to dining out includes following directions to get to a restaurant, identifying and following safety and community signs along the way, practicing reading a menu, responding to the communication attempts from a server, ordering food, paying for the bill, and identifying an appropriate tip. Getting out in the community with our adolescent and young adult students while practicing meeting communication demands will help provide them with experience and exposure necessary to increase their independence. For my monthly life skills calendar with a variety of life skills activities listed for each month, you can check that out HERE.
What are your favorite ways to target life skills and communication demands with adolescents and young adults? Let me know in the comments!