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Self-Care & Daily Living

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What are self-care & daily living skills?

Self-care and daily living skills involve the ability to care for one’s own needs, therefore facilitating independent living at school, home, and in one's community. The following functions are commonly included within this skill set: self-feeding, drinking, dressing, bathing, grooming (i.e., tooth brushing, combing hair, nail trimming), and toileting. Other important self-care and daily living skills are proper sleep hygiene, participation in leisure and play activities, social communication, and safety awareness.

Signs of challenge in this area include...
  • Relying on others to perform self-care tasks such as putting on socks and shoes

  • Difficulties with toilet training

  • Lack of motivation to develop independence

  • Difficulties copying and learning from others, including peers

  • Moving slow during morning routine

  • Challenges with following instructions at home and at school

Why is this important?

Self-care and daily living skills enable a child to achieve maximal independence and success in their everyday life, which can in turn instill a sense of confidence and self-efficacy. Furthermore, self-care and daily living skills offer children an early methodology for practicing many of the foundational skills that will facilitate favorable outcomes across academic, community, and social contexts. For example, self-care tasks allow children to develop fine motor skills through the manipulation of fasteners such as zippers, Velcro, and snaps.


Additionally, when participating in daily self-care tasks, children are able to practice sequencing skills (i.e., deciding which clothing item to put on first) and motor planning skills (e.g., formulating and carrying out a motor action to open a lunch container). Self-care and daily living tasks also incorporate gross motor, visual motor, and bilateral coordination skills (the use of both sides of the body in an organized manner). Developing this foundation translates into other skill areas, such as forming letters and numbers, understanding how to use scissors to cut paper, and participating in functional play tasks with peers (i.e., pushing Legos together to form structures).

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How can ot help?

Occupational therapists can assist children in developing self-care and daily living skills through the use of evidence-based interventions designed to promote independence and participation in everyday tasks. For example, a child may be taught the sequence of shoe tying with a silly song, or may practice buttoning a vest on a favorite stuffed animal. Interventions also involve strengthening the skill foundations underlying self-care, such as strengthening visual motor skills required for self-feeding through practice of stringing large beads. Interventions also frequently include family and caregiver training. For example, an occupational therapist may educate a parent in techniques for simplification of a complex self-care task such as brushing teeth, or provide a visual aid depicting the steps of hand washing (i.e., first soap, then water). 

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