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Overwhelmed and Don't Know Where to Start? Start with the Essentials

You won't regret getting back to basics

During initial conversations with parents and caregivers, I often hear a few common themes. "I know my child needs support, but we don't know where to start." "I want my child to have the best life possible and I don't know exactly what to do." "I worry about my child's safety and wellbeing when I'm not around."

As a parent myself, I hear you. At times, I am completely overwhelmed with the amount of information available and struggle to know what to do and who to trust. I think what we all want, more than anything, is for our children to be happy, healthy, and safe, and to prepare them for their best lives with and without us. With a wealth of information just a click away, it can be easy to be overloaded with terms and approaches.

We truly believe that learning and skill building is like building a house. All homes require a rock solid foundation before anything else can be built. We argue that the foundation for every person, regardless of ability or disability, is built from honing in on a few key skills: communication, tolerance, and independence.

The Essential for Living is an incredible assessment, curriculum, and handbook that has shaped how we think about what to prioritize teaching first when building foundations for learning. Developed by Dr. Patrick McGreevy, the Essential for Living focuses on the communication, behavior, and life skills that an individual needs for a happier, more fulfilled life. The EFL Quick Assessment is an easy to use tool that outlines eight essential skills that all people need to build their foundations for future learning and success in life. The essential eight skills include:

- Requesting

- Waiting

- Accepting removals of preferred items/activities, tolerating interruptions, sharing, and taking turns

- Tolerating "no"

- Completing known tasks independently without problem behavior

- Following directions related to health and safety

- Completing daily living skills related to health and safety

- Tolerating situations related to health and safety

We use the Essential for Living Quick Assessment to help us orient to what is truly important for people to learn first. We've found, time and time again, that people who learn the Essential Eight skills are better able to build upon this learning in therapy, school, and home. These skills are not temporal or fads; the essential eight are needed by all people in order to have the best, most independent, most fulfilled life possible. We've all met someone in our adult lives who can't wait (hello, road rage) or can't accept being told "no". If these skills are not learned, they inevitably have to be performed by someone else on behalf of the individual or will severely limit options for the individual or family. This leads to a shaky foundation for the individual and barriers to future learning and inclusion opportunities.

We truly believe that all people, regardless of age, ability, or disability, can learn and deserve the best quality education and services. The critical communication, tolerance, and life skills in the Essential for Living Quick Assessment are equivalent to the bricks and mortar that foundations are made from. We also believe it is never too late to get back to the essentials and firm up the foundation if you discover a skill is missing.

Check out the Essential for Living website for more information:

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