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Self-Care Skills

What are self care skills?


Self care skills are the everyday tasks undertaken to be ready to participate in

life activities (including dressing, eating, cleaning teeth and more). They are often

referred to as the activities of daily living (ADL’s).


How can you tell if my child has problems with self care skills?


If a child has self care difficulties, they might:


  • Be unable to feed themselves independently.

  • Require more help than others of their age to get dressed                                      or undressed.

  • Find it difficult to tolerate wearing certain clothes.

  • Struggle to use silverware.

  • Need adults to open food packaging in their lunch box.

  • Refuse to eat certain foods.

  • Be unable to coordinate movements to brush teeth.

  • Require extensive help to fall asleep.

  • Choose to toilet only at home where there is adult support.


What other problems can occur when you see difficulties with self care skills?

When a child has self care difficulties, they might also have difficulties with:


  • Following instructions: The ability to understand and be able to initiate the tasks to be done as per requested by others.

  • Receptive language: Comprehension of language.

  • Eating: The physical skill of using cutlery in an age appropriate manner as well as eating a good range of food.

  • SleepingBeing able to independently settle and resettle to get to sleep.

  • Dressing and undressing: or assisting with dressing to an  age appropriate level.

  • Social skills: Determined by the ability to engage in reciprocal interaction with others (either verbally or non-verbally), to compromise with others, and be able to recognize and follow social norms.

  • Fine motor skills: Finger and hand skills such as opening lunch boxes, tying shoelaces, doing up buttons.

  • Gross motor skills: Whole body physical skills using the ‘core’ strength muscles of the trunk, arms, legs such as getting on and off the toilet and standing to dress.

  • Organization: The ability to know what a task involves, the materials required, how to collate them such as packing the bag for preschool or even getting dressed.

  • Executive functioning: Higher order reasoning and thinking skills.


Why should I seek therapy if I notice difficulties with self care skills in my child?

Therapeutic intervention to help a child with self care difficulties is important as:



  • Self care skills are the every day practice of the foundations skills for academic performance not just life skills.



  • To support age appropriate independence before these skills become a problem such as at school camps for older children or much desired sleep overs for kind aged children.



What type of therapy is recommended for self care skill difficulties?


Diagnosis alone is NOT the solution. It simply opens the door to getting the help that is needed by arming all involved with the relevant information. 


If your child has difficulties with self care skills, it is recommended they consult an Occupational Therapist.

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