Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Teaching Daily Living Skills: Not as Easy as it Looks!

When a person is unable to perform a daily living skill, the usual assumption is that the person needs to be taught it. This seems to make sense, and is actually an integral part of some current models of practice. So, a person is hired to teach the client the skill.

There's one problem with this way of thinking - if you are working with an adult, it is likely that at some point in his or her life, there was already an opportunity to learn that skill. It is very seldom that no other person has ever tried to teach your client the skill. For some reason, he or she did not learn the skill in the usual way.

Reasons for not learning a skill can be numerous. Many of my clients had significant cognitive deficits that made learning new skills difficult. Some people are not motivated to learn the skills. Sometimes there is a physical barrier. Perhaps the person has unrealistic thinking about how the skill is to be done.

This can present many challenges to the person doing the skills-teaching. It may be that the person needs a different teaching style (e.g. client responds better to visual cues than verbal cues), or that the person is unable to learn the skill as it is and the skill needs to be modified. It may mean that the environment needs to be modified in order to support the person performing the skill. It may mean the person needs help finding the motivation to perform the skill.

Here's my peeve: Often the people hired to do the skills-teaching have little to no training, very few resources to use, are hugely underpaid (with no consistency to their hours), and sometimes do not even have the skills themselves that they are supposed to be teaching. It may be different where you are, but that is the way it seems to be around here.

Don't get me wrong - I have great respect for the people doing this job. They can be some of the most caring individuals you will ever meet. Many are very resourceful. I just feel they are under-valued and under-supported.

They must first figure out what the barriers to performing the skill are. Then they must figure out how the person learns. Then they must actually teach the skill and/or modify it. They often have to find their own resources to do this, and often they are not paid for the time they spend finding resources.

This is partly why I wanted to write Daily Living Skills Worksheets. I had worked with various different agencies and programs who were looking for training and resources for their workers. Yet so little was available for working with adults.

To teach children at school, you need a degree; you are given a good salary and benefits; you are provided with library access and planning time; and you are paid to attend high quality inservices. There seems to be a large disparity between this and the supports given to people teaching daily living skills to adults.

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