6 independent living skills kids need before moving away from home

At a glance

  • Teens and young adults need to be able to manage day-to-day tasks on their own before moving away from home.

  • Learning how to shop and manage money is important for independent living.

  • Some independent living skills are difficult for people with severe learning and thinking differences.

When kids have severe learning and thinking differences, it’s common wonder if they’ll be able to live independently. With the right preparation, kids with more severe or can succeed at living alone. But before they move out, they have to be able to manage day-to-day tasks on their own.

Kids also need to be emotionally ready to live alone. This means they have to be comfortable being away from your home for long periods.

Here are key skills teens and young adults need before they move away from home and live independently.

1. Personal care

This includes:

  • Practicing good personal hygiene, such as taking showers and brushing teeth regularly.

  • Taking part in activities to stay physically fit, such as joining a community softball team or just taking a daily walk.

  • Understanding the dangers of smoking, drugs, alcohol, unprotected sex, and abusive behaviors.

  • Knowing when to seek medical care and how and when to take medication.

Trouble with personal care can have a big impact on social and work relationships. That’s why it’s important to regularly involve kids in shopping for personal care items before they move out. This can help them understand how much these things cost and how often they need to be replaced. You can also encourage kids to keep a list of the personal care items they need and where to buy them.

When kids take medication, like ADHD medication, it’s important to work with them to create a list of the medicine they use and a calendar of the days and times they need to take it. They’ll need to know how and where to refill medication, too. Have your child practice calling the doctor and the local pharmacy to order prescriptions. And make sure your child understands the dangers of ADHD medication abuse. For instance, it’ll be important to store medication in a spot that’s safe from roommates or visitors.

2. Laundry

People who live on their own need to know how to do their own laundry. A good way to teach them how to care for their clothes is to break things down into steps.

If your child doesn’t know how to do laundry, practice at home. Create a list of laundry supplies. Then show your child how to sort dirty clothes, wash them, and fold and store them after they’re dry.

3. Money management

People who live alone need to be able to manage a budget, pay bills, and withdraw and deposit money. This may be especially difficult for people who struggle with math.

Work together to make a list of expenses your child will have when living away from home. This includes rent, bills, food, medicine, personal items, and recreational activities. Be sure to highlight the things that have to be paid for on a regular basis, so your child can budget accordingly.

There are lots of apps that can help with money management and budgets. Search online or in the app store of your smartphone. Encourage your child to try some apps and practice with them before leaving home.

It’s also important to consider what financial arrangement works for you and your child. If you plan on sending an allowance, then you may want to send money every two weeks like a paycheck.

If your child has a credit card, be sure to set a limit. Figure out what the consequences will be for overspending, and make sure your child is aware of them.

Keep in mind that some kids with profound learning disabilities may need financial support for life. If this is the case with your child, read about long-term financial planning.

4. Food preparation

Preparing and storing food safely is key to good health. People who live on their own need to know how to plan meals in advance and how to shop for groceries. This includes buying items that will last a few days or longer. It also includes knowing which foods can’t be stored for very long. Your child needs to know to buy these items one at a time, so they don’t go to waste.

You may want to create a sample grocery list for your child. Talk about which items belong in a cabinet, and which go in the fridge or freezer. You can also practice cooking simple meals together.

5. Getting around

Your child will have to know how to get around town. This includes understanding the time it takes to get someplace and the cost of the trip.

People who plan on using public transportation should practice taking the train or bus. Schedules can change, so it’s important to know what to do if this happens.

People who drive also need to understand directions. Discuss how to use GPS on a smartphone or other device. You may be able to pre-program addresses your child visits often. It’s also important to know when to fill the gas tank and how much gas costs. Your child’s budget should also account for car care, such as repairs and oil changes.

People who use cabs to get around still need to understand how much money the trip will cost, how long it will take, and how to tip. They also need to be able to communicate where they’re going.

6. Shopping

Living on your own means making purchases on a regular basis. Your child needs to understand which stores carry certain things. For example, someone who wants to buy a shirt should know which clothing store to go to, what size to get, and the approximate cost.

Independent living is a serious decision. It’s important that you and your child both feel ready for this step.

Read more about teaching money management to kids with learning and thinking differences. Learn about careers for kids with learning and thinking differences, including jobs for kids who don’t want to sit at a desk. And if your child is in high school and has an , read how IEP transition planning can help with preparing for young adulthood.

Key takeaways

  • To live on their own, kids have to be able to manage day-to-day tasks like personal care and food preparation.

  • They also need to know how to budget and pay for things.

  • It’s important for your child to practice independent living skills before moving out.


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