Adult Independent Living Skills to Gradually Learn at Any Age


These are the essential skill areas an adult needs in order to live independently. In each category we provide examples of skills and knowledge to build toward. Each person’s strengths, challenges and sensory issues are different. These are goals to gradually work on from childhood through adulthood. You will find  life skill tips and information throughout the Milestones Autism Planning (MAP) Tool for each age range in many dfferent topics

The purpose of the MAP is to give you life skills to work on from a young age and stage to help any individual achieve the most independent skills they can. Many of us don’t start as early as we wish we had. Whenever and however you do is great. Think about the supports that your loved one may need to have their best quality of life rather than to help them do tasks you think they could do. Ultimately, everyone benefits from the support and help of others -- neurotypicals and neurodiverse. It’s important to assess what. We all continue to learn throughout childhood and adulthood. Education does not need to stop with school.

You may find the Housing article for ages 14 to 17 helpful to think about assessing your child's skills when they reach the teen years and longer term goals. The article explains the assessments typically done at 16 years old to help gauge a teen’s progress and areas to work on. We also provide a guide to the housing decision process to learn about assessing skills and eventually thinking about housing options.

We are here to help. The Milestones free autism Helpdesk can connect you with the best resources to fit your needs, and individual or family consultations can help you make a customized action plan.

Adult Independent Living Skills Listed Below

Click on the different white boxes below to see Adult Independent Living Skills in each topic area. You can also download the full Adult Independent Living Skills list by clicking on the pink button at the bottom of this page. In the downloadable version there is a small box next to each skill that you can click to color in particular skills to customize it to your needs.

Safety at Home & in the Community
Have a safety plan in the event of a fire, pandemic or other emergency and your home is not safe to stay at. For example:

-- What to do if there is a fire.
-- How to avoid crime. What to do if something is stolen.
-- What to do if you get lost.
-- How to safely interact with first responders (police, fire, emergency services).
-- How to safely use the kitchen.
-- What to do during a power outage.

How to handle a meltdown while out in the community. For example:
-- Strategies to know the signs.
-- Try to avoid a meltdown by recognizing and avoiding triggers.
-- Try to get to a safe place.
-- How to ask for help.
-- Bathe and handle routine daily hygiene tasks without prompting.
-- Handle dental hygiene such as regularly changing your toothbrush every 3 months.
-- Weekly laundry and changing your sheets and towels.
-- Not wearing the same clothes every day.
-- For women, know how to handle feminine hygiene such as being prepared for your period
-- What to do when you're sick ie washing hands before eating. Coughing into your elbow.
Self Medical Care
-- Handle simple first aid, a cold or stomach virus.
-- Keep basic over the counter medications on hand. Check expiration dates periodically.
-- Handle personal care properly.
-- Know what not to do that could hurt you (ie pushing a Q-tip too deeply in your ear).
-- Know medical history and what to share with a doctor like allergies and conditions.
-- Keep track of essential information like your vaccines and medical issues.
-- Understand routine medical and dental care. How often to see dentist/each type doctor.
-- How to make an appointment with your doctor and which type of doctor to see for what.
-- Know when to see a doctor? Know what is an emergency.
-- How to refill your prescriptions. For controlled substances know strict rules including seeing a doctor regularly.
-- Ensure you don’t run low on medications without getting the next prescription filled.

-- Know how to fix 10 meals.
-- Know how to use a stove, microwave, toaster and dishwasher safely.
-- Handle grocery shopping.
-- Clean up after a meal.
-- Maintain your refrigerator and stock of favorite food.
-- Regularly check food expiration dates. Know what to keep or throw away including leftovers.
Managing Household
-- Cleaning and maintenance of the home.
-- Home maintenance such as changing furnace filters, servicing furnace/air conditioner.
-- Keep and maintain stock of cleaners.
-- Maintain your household appliances such as cleaning/emptying the vacuum cleaner.
-- How to regularly clean and sanitize the bathroom and kitchen.
-- Has and maintains rental or homeowner insurance and payments for it.
-- How to do laundry.
-- What to do if the power goes out and how to report outage to your utility company.
-- Have flashlights and know where they are. Do not use candles because of safety hazards.
-- Prepare for unexpected such as things breaking and know who is responsible for fixing.
-- What your rental/home insurance covers and how to do that process vs you pay cost.
-- If a storm causes a problem with the ceiling or roof, do you call the landlord, building manager, or are you responsible for finding someone to fix it.
Financial Literacy
-- Pay bills.
-- Understand and handle budgeting.
-- Has a reliable means of paying for things and understands how to use them.
-- Has a savings/checking account and maintains it.
-- If applicable, has and manages other savings tools such as retirement account.
-- Know how to figure out what a reasonable price is for things and where to get them.
-- Maintain eligibility for your benefits as needed, providing required documentation.
-- Understand how to recognize junk mail, spam email and scam phone calls.
-- Avoid getting taken financially including online or in person.
-- Know to keep financial and personal information private, not sharing with anyone.
-- Know to read before signing a contract and make sure you understand before signing.
-- Understand when and who to ask for help (ie to read an apartment lease before signing).
-- Has rental or homeowner insurance from a reliable company and keeps it maintained.
-- Know how to drive safely and maintain auto insurance.
-- How to find directions to get places and home and multiple routes for getting home.
-- Know how to use public transportation.
-- Gets public transportation disability pass/discount if appropriate.
-- How to use ride share companies.
-- How to use free community transportation for people with disabilities.
-- Has transportation for essential errands, getting to and from work and social activities.
-- If drives knows what to do in case of an accident.
-- If drives can do so in rain, snow, and road conditions such as construction and detours.
-- Maintain your drivers license, license plates/registration/stickers.
-- Has and knows how to renew a disability placard if appropriate.
-- Maintain your car, routine maintenance if you have a car. Save money for car repairs.
-- Know to be careful about lending your car, public transportation card, disability placard
-- Achieve skills, training and/or education needed for a position.
-- This could be on the job training, an apprenticeship, trade school or an internship.
-- Know types of jobs right for you based on your needs and interests that give you income.
-- Know how to job hunt (or where to get help with this).
-- Understand and able to handle workplace practices, habits and focus.
-- How to ask for support and accommodations.
-- Know the steps for how to quit, change or look for a new position
-- Know how to ask for references.
-- Keep notes of skills and projects you’ve done that you could use for a job application. resume, LinkedIn profile and for networking.
Self-Advocacy Skills
-- Know how to say no/yes/state your preferences appropriately.
-- Know how to deal with landlord, neighbors, boss.
-- Manage your unique sensory issues and needs.
-- Know how to handle the level of dating and sexuality you are comfortable with and want.
-- Know how to deliver bad news.
-- Understand body safety, appropriate touching and that no one has the right to touch your body without your permission.
Leisure Skills
-- Comfortable planning your own activities for your free time.
-- Can manage transition from fun activities to job, maintaining home or other obligations.
-- Know how to set limits/stop doing a favorite activity such as video game, favorite show.
-- Know what to do when you’re feeling lonely or want social connection - what to do next.
-- Understands internet safety and practical precautions to avoid getting taken advantage of.
Executive Functioning
-- Use appropriate focus to perform on the job and handle daily tasks in your home.
-- Get up in the morning and get to work on time.
-- Get to sleep at a reasonable hour for your work schedule.
-- Manage your time and focus between your devices and home, social and employment life.
Social Skills/Relationships/Sexuality
-- How to make friends or have stable friendships.
-- How to know whether someone is an acquaintance or friend.
-- How to tell if someone is trying to take advantage of you.
-- How to handle whatever level of sexuality is comfortable for you (ie dating).
-- How to use birth control if appropriate.
-- How to avoid exploitation, unwanted touching, etc.

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