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Preparing My Special Needs Child for Independent Living

One of the good things about being married is that, over the years, you learn important things from your partner. One of the best things my husband has taught me is to utilize books to solve problems. As strange as it sounds, reading was not a usual way I problem solved. Instead of gathering knowledge by reading, I talked to people. Problem solving for me involved getting on the telephone and discussing the issue with friends and family — laypeople, not “experts.”

But, again, whenever my husband encountered a problem in his life, he went out and purchased three to four books on the subject and read up on it. For instance, when we were buying a house, my husband bought numerous how-to books about the topic. And when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he gathered up books about this mental health issue and read, read, read. Finally, when we were in the process of adopting our son, my husband was reading about how to make adoptions happen.

Well, recently, I faced a problem. My special needs, autistic child had turned 13, and I feared that I wasn’t doing enough to prepare him for adulthood. I hadn’t taught him how to cook. I hadn’t shown him how to do laundry. I hadn’t discussed how to budget his money. In short, there were many practical missing pieces in my son’s life skills knowledge base. I feared he wouldn’t be able to someday live independently, or at least, without his father and me.

So, remembering what my husband did when he faced a problem, I went to Amazon and looked for a text about life skills for children with special needs. I think that’s the exact phrase I typed into the search bar — “life skills for children with special needs.”

And lo and behold, Life Skills Activities for Secondary Students with Special Needs by Darlene Mannix popped up. It was exactly what I was looking for. (By the way, Mannix has also written the same kind of book for K-5 children.)

I bought the book, and it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

In short, Life Skills Activities for Secondary Students with Special Needs is brilliantly written and is organized in an accessible way. The 513-page text is divided into six major parts, which are composed of 27 chapters. The parts are as follows: Self-Awareness, People Skills, Academic and School Skills, Practical Living Skills, Vocational Skills and Problem-Solving Skills.

Currently, my son and I are doing a few pages a night out of the Self-Awareness section. So far, we have read and talked about values, reputation and kindness. I truly love how Mannix begins with how to understand yourself before she launches into how to make a meal or look for and obtain a job. Her book just makes logical sense. Each concept builds on the next. The last chapter of the book is quite fittingly “Risk-Taking.”

Let me tell you, it’s so much easier working with a text with my son than trying to start explaining life skills from ground zero (with nothing but my wits and my experience.)

Essentially, we’re using Mannix’s book as a discussion springboard. For instance, the other night when we were talking about what my son valued in life, we got to talking about what all of our family members valued.

“What does Grandma value?” I asked.

“Love,” my son said.

“What does Dad value?”

“Sports,” he replied quickly, laughing.

“And his family,” I added.

“And his family,” my son repeated.

Each conversation between my son and me that springs from Mannix’s book brings with it laughter and curiosity — and a search for mutual understanding about life.

Parents, if you’re looking for a way to help teach your special needs pre-teen or teen about how to live independently, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of Life Skills Activities for Secondary Students with Special Needs. You won’t regret it.

The book was formulated for teachers, so there are many “reproducible worksheets to help adolescents develop basic skills to experience independence and success in everyday life.”

With Mannix’s book, you won’t feel so alone in the teaching process; you are in expert hands.

As we go through life, we encounter many problems. I’ve learned a new problem solving approach from my dear husband — read, read, read.

Thank you, honey, for setting a good example. You’ve empowered me, and now I’m empowering our son.

Viva the special needs kid!

Preparing My Special Needs Child for Independent Living

Laura Yeager

Laura Yeager has been writing for over 35 years. Some of her favorite topics include mental health, writing, religion, parenthood, dogs, and her day-to-day life. She is a mental health writer for Her articles about writing have appeared in The Writer Magazine, The Toastmaster Magazine, and Her spiritual writing has been featured in several venues including Aleteia USA, Busted Halo, The Liguorian Magazine, Canticle Magazine and Guideposts Magazine. A graduate of The Writers' Workshop at The University of Iowa, Laura teaches writing at Kent State University and online Creative Writing at Gotham Writers' Workshop in New York.

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APA Reference
Yeager, L. (2018). Preparing My Special Needs Child for Independent Living. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 4 Mar 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.