What are self care skills?
Self care skills are the everyday tasks undertaken so children are ready to participate in life activities (including dressing, eating, cleaning teeth). They are often referred to as the activities of daily living (ADL’s). While these are typically supported by adults in young children, it is expected that children develop independence in these as they mature.
Why are self care skills important?
Self care skills are one of the first ways that children develop the ability to plan and sequence task performance, to organise the necessary materials and to develop the refined physical control required to carry out daily tasks (e.g. opening lunch boxes, drawing or standing to pull up pants). Self care skills act as precursors for many school related tasks as well as life skills. The term ‘self care’ would suggest that these skills are expected to be done independently and in many cases, it becomes inappropriate for others to assist with such tasks (age dependent of course). More specifically, many preschools and schools will have a requirement for children to be toilet trained prior to starting at their centre.
When self care skills are difficult, this also becomes a limiting factor for many other life experiences. It makes it difficult to have sleepovers at friends’ or family’s houses, to go on school/preschool excursions, children may stand out at birthday parties if they are not comfortable eating and toileting independently, they may experience bullying or miss out on other social experiences as a result.
What are the building blocks necessary to develop self care skills?
Hand and finger strength: An ability to exert force against resistance using the hands and fingers for utensil use.
Hand control: The ability to move and use the hands in a controlled manner such as cutlery used for eating.
Sensory processing: Accurate registration, interpretation and response to sensory stimulation in the environment and one’s own body.
Object manipulation: The ability to skillfully manipulate tools, including the ability to hold and move pencils and scissors with control, controlled use of everyday tools such as a toothbrush, hairbrush, and cutlery.
Expressive language (using language): The use of language through speech, sign or alternative forms of communication to communicate wants, needs, thoughts and ideas.
Planning and sequencing: The sequential multi-step task/activity performance to achieve a well-defined result (e.g. dressing and teeth cleaning).
Receptive language (understanding): Comprehension of language.
Compliance: Ability to follow simple adult-directed routines (i.e. doesn’t demonstrate avoidance behaviours where the child simply doesn’t want to do it because an adult is telling them to do it and interrupts what they were doing).