Helping older students acquire life skills is a crucial component of speech therapy and special education. As SLPs and teachers, we are always looking for functional ways to prepare our students for the "real world". And now more than ever, the "real world" means utilizing technology to get and interpret information.
There's no question about it. Our world is DIGITAL. We use apps to check the weather, e-mails to communicate with family, QR codes to access restaurant menus, and the internet and video conferencing platforms to help us serve our students. This ever-evolving world of technology is a huge part of life for our middle school and high school students, too.
Integrating digital devices into therapy and classroom activities is no longer just about the convenience of not having to print and prep activities. It is a functional way to equip students with skills and experiences that they can use now, and in the years to come.
In addition, computers, tablets, and interactive whiteboards allow Speech-Language Pathologists and special education teachers to utilize engaging and practical activities without spending their lunch break planning. Downloadable and web-based materials are just a click away whenever and wherever you need them.
Websites to Target Life Skills in Speech Therapy
One way to functionally target life skills is to help students access and use information on websites. Navigating a website is undoubtedly a skill most of us use daily. Locating a website's main menu and choosing the navigation link to a specific piece of information is something most of us do daily.
For example, you might work with a student on searching for the website of their favorite clothing store. Once you get to the page, the student can figure out where they might look to find a dress shirt vs. a t-shirt. Then you could work on identifying the size, material, and washing instructions. These sorts of functional reading tasks do not get more, well, functional!
Functional Reading Activities to Target Life Skills
Along with websites, using digital versions of print resources to acquire information is another functional, yet easy-to-implement, activity for older students. This might include store coupons, newspaper articles, district calendars, or digital tickets.
A more specific example is gathering information from a grocery store's online ad, as shown here. This activity, along with the other print materials like it in the resource, could be used for problem-solving, answering questions, and other life skills such as money management.
Digital Cooking Activities to Target Life Skills
Cooking is always very motivating for older students. Whether you're working on transition goals or just want to address language within the context of a functional activity, having visual recipes ready to go on a digital device significantly reduces the prep time needed.
These simple digital recipes support students by providing age-appropriate visuals to help them understand the recipe, plus follow-up activities to extend the language in the activity. The PDF is easy to save on a tablet or computer to use whenever you need in, but the printable version of the recipes can be used if needed.
Accessible Chef is also a great tool with simple recipes for children and young adults with special needs. And Sarah Wu is an SLP with some great wordless cooking videos on YouTube. It's important to always preview the video before viewing it with a student.
Phone and Tablet Apps to Target Life Skills
These days, there's an app for everything, right? Apps on an iPad, a smartphone, or a computer are another practical way to work on life skills. Some ideas include using Pinterest to look up recipes, Google Maps to get directions to the library, or Ticketmaster to find out about upcoming events. Or, since most older students have their own cell phones, we can assist them in better using some of the apps they already have.
For more structured practice, the Boom Learning app has thousands of digital task cards. While I use the website version of the platform all the time for teletherapy, the iPad app is perfect for in-person therapy. The decks help students practice any number of life skills, such as this one which works on identifying supplies for a given household or personal care task. Perfect for using in school and practicing at home!
Productivity apps are also great tools to work on life skills with older students. Ways to work on language within these activities may not always be obvious, but they're usually there. And so functional.
For example, adding events to a calendar or reminder app perfectly lends itself to working on past and future tense verbs. Identifying the important details of an article could be worked on by taking notes in a note-taking app.
Digital Forms to Work on Life Skills
Lastly, teaching students how to complete forms (such as applications, order forms, and registrations) is a valuable skill for transition to adulthood. You can work through real forms on websites (without hitting 'submit', of course!), or you can create one to practice using Google Forms.
If you're a subscriber to my email list, you can find this job application (with fillable text boxes!) in the freebie library! Forms are a great way to practice answering questions, making inferences, and vocabulary in context.
As teachers and therapists, our goal is the same as it's always been– to prepare our students to be as independent and successful in the skills they need for everyday life. And by using digital resources and activities, we can do just that..... keep learning relevant for our students and save ourselves a little time along the way!
Shop digital life skills resources for more ideas!
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