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How to Teach Independent Living Skills to Mentally Ill People

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Adults with mental disabilities often have the same wants and desires that people without disabilities do. They would like to live independently, have jobs, create a comfortable home and communicate with friends of their choosing when they feel like it. When you teach a skill to help promote independence you are assisting someone in reaching out and achieving his goals. Learning to live independently gives a person with mental or physical challenges the sense of self worth and the feeling that she can accomplish more on her own.

Break Down The Tasks

Break down the skills that the person needs to learn into small sections. If the person is learning to cook a meal, break the experience down into planning the meal, shopping for the meal, getting ready to cook the meal, cooking the meal and serving the meal. This way the person can ask questions and learn about each step separately instead of getting confused by having all the steps jumbled together.

Practice Each Step Individually

Practice the tasks that the individual wants to perform on his own and let the individual practice both with help and without help. Break the steps down and practice each part and then put the steps together and practice the whole thing. Work on each part of the process so that she can learn all the steps.

Help As Needed

Assist the person with disabilities as needed while completing each task until he can complete the tasks on his own. Use techniques such as hand over hand, showing the person how to do something first, verbally describe how to do the task and show pictures of what needs to get done. Help the person until he needs less help each time and then slowly remove your help from the situation.

Individualize Your Teaching Techiques

Apply the teaching techniques that work well with each individual and tailor how you teach to suit her needs. One person with disabiilties can have stronger skills in certain areas than another person with disabilities. If someone needs more hands-on help then you can slow down and use more hands-on techniques.


Angela Reinholz is a full-time freelance writer. Reinholz started writing professionally in 2007, specializing in animals and social work with some branching off into legal matters. She has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern New Hampshire University and an associate degree in network administration from McIntosh College, located in Dover, N.H.

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