Functional skills are all those skills a student needs in order to live independently. The final goal of special education should be for our students to gain as much independence and autonomy as possible, whether their disability is emotional, intellectual, physical, or a combination of two or more (multiple) disabilities. "Self Determination" is the highest goal of special education for our students.
Skills are defined as functional as long as the outcome supports the student's independence. For some students, those skills may be learning to feed themselves. For other students, it may be learning to use a bus, including reading a bus schedule.
Functional Academic Skills
Living independently requires some skills which are considered academic, even if they do not lead to higher education or even completion of a regular diploma. Those skills include:
- Math Skills - The functional math skills include telling time, counting and using money, balancing a checkbook, measurement and understanding volume. For higher functioning students, they will expand to vocationally oriented skills, such as making change or following a schedule.
- Language Arts - Reading begins as simply as recognizing symbols, moving on to reading signs (stop, push) and moves on to reading directions. For many students with disabilities, they may need to have reading texts supported with tapes or adults reading. Still, in order to read a bus schedule, a sign in the bathroom, or directions, a student with disabilities gains independence by learning to read.
Updated May 12, 2017