Learning Independent Living and Self-Care Skills in High School Lead to Better Post-Secondary Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

NTACT: the Collaborative
7 min readJun 25, 2019


Ruth Allison, Michael Stoehr, & the NTACT Knowledge Development Team

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Self-care/independent living skills are “skills necessary for management of one’s personal self-care and daily independent living, including the personal management skills needed to interact with others, daily living skills, financial management skills, and the self-management of healthcare/wellness needs.” (Rowe et al., 2015).

There is a direct correlation between students having self-care skills and successful education, employment and independent living outcomes. Therefore, it is important for educators, Vocational Rehabilitation personnel, parents, and others who support students to incorporate natural and purposeful opportunities for students to learn and apply independent living skills to gain the self-care skills needed to be successful in life after high school.

What We Know:

An effective secondary transition program embeds opportunities to learn self-care/independent living skills in multiple settings including general education, special education, and in the community. These opportunities assist students in understanding the connection of what they are learning across settings and the alignment of those activities with their post-school goals.

As professionals are supporting students, instruction and services regarding self-care/independent living should be individualized based upon assessment data and could address one or more of the following areas:

· financial planning

· self- help

· cooking

· housekeeping

· home maintenance

· using transportation

· clothing care

· accessing community services

· time/ organizational management

· self-determination

· social roles/ citizenship

· community/peer relationships

· critical thinking and problem solving.

The Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act (WIOA):

The Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act (WIOA) require Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies to provide five required pre-employment transition services to students with disabilities. One of those five required services is workplace readiness training to develop social skills and independent living. Work readiness skills are sometimes called soft skills, employability skills, or job readiness skills, and are those skills that employers commonly expect from their employees.

The Workforce Innovation and Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC) has developed a resource page regarding Workplace Readiness Training to Develop Social Skills and Independent Living:


In addition to addressing workplace readiness training WIOA also required a series of changes to the mandated services provided by the nation’s Centers for Independent Living (CILs). Among these changes for CILs was the addition of a core service, Youth Transition. While CILs have always been federally mandated to serve people with disabilities of all ages, this mandate has brought enthusiasm and catalyzed an increased interest for CILs to better support youth by:

  • CILs can provide one-on-one independent living (IL)-related skill building with youth and may also have any number of additional programs and services that can directly impact IL skills.
  • CILs’ representative can be invited to a transition IEP
  • CILs should be considered as a partner in a state’s interagency teaming efforts

To find the CIL near you: https://www.ilru.org/projects/cil-net/cil-center-and-association-directory

Take a look at what is happening in some states…….

Alaska — JOBZ Club


JOBZ Club is a partnership between state and local agencies in Alaska to provide Work Readiness Skills (Soft Skills) that students with disabilities need to get and keep a good job. Participating agencies include the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and Division of Employment and Training Services (DETS), the Department of Education and Early Development, and local education agencies and teachers.

There is an abundance of research which shows that when soft skills, such as

communication, teamwork and professionalism, are taught to high school students

transitioning to work, they are significantly more likely to be employed after high school, and at

a higher wage. Youth with disabilities have a much higher unemployment rate than their peers

and therefore have an even greater need for these skills. JOBZ Club provides teachers a method to introduce soft skills to students using engaging activities, facilitated discussions, and topic specific videos. At the end of the 7 sessions, participating students gain a deeper understanding of the skills employers want.

Florida — Transition Education Network — “Project 10” — Independent Living Category


The mission of Project 10 is to assist Florida school districts and relevant stakeholders in building capacity to provide secondary transition services to students with disabilities in order to improve their academic success and post-school outcomes. Project 10 serves as the primary conduit between the Florida Department of Education, specifically the Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services (BEESS), and relevant school district personnel in addressing law and policy, effective practices, and research-based interventions in the area of transition services for youth with disabilities.

The Independent Living Category on the Project 10 website provides information and resources for school professionals, students and families regarding independent living options and strategies for students with disabilities. The information in this category is divided into five sections: Financial Literacy, Health, Housing, Leisure & Recreation, and Transportation.

Maine — Practical Pathways


Practical Pathways was written for young people exiting the foster care system and the adult allies who support youth. This guide provides the information and resources to support young people in getting their first apartment, buying a car, finding a doctor, and making smart financial decisions. It’s a lot to navigate and Practical Pathways is set up to provide a snapshot of necessary information and suggestions of where to get more resources. Each section includes a Resource Page with helpful contact information.

South Carolina — CareerBOOST


CareerBOOST is a partnership between the South Carolina Commission for the Blind, Able South Carolina, the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, Walton Options for Independent Living, and South Carolina’s public school system. CareerBOOST Builds Occupational Opportunities for STudents in Transition by providing Pre-Employment Transition Services to high school students who have disabilities. These services help students who have disabilities to explore career and post-secondary education options.


1. NTACT — Quick Guide: Transportation and Travel Instruction

This document provides an overview of the importance of travel instruction and includes related resources and links.


2. NTACT Annotated Bibliographies

NTACT has developed a number of annotated bibliographies regarding independent living and self-care skills to assist novice and seasoned researchers. These include:

· Financial Literacy Annotated Bibliography

· Health Issues and Transition Planning Annotated Bibliography

· Sexuality and Transition Planning Annotated Bibliography

3. NTACT Research to Practice Lesson Plan Starters

NTACT has compiled multiple lesson plan starters that educators and agency staff can utilize when teaching independent living and self-care skills. Topics include: community access, finance, purchasing, nutrition, recreation and leisure, and safety


4. Center for Parent Information & Resources — Sexuality Education for Students with Disabilities

This resource page on the Center for Parent Information & Resources website provides information and resources regarding sexual development and how disabilities can affect sexuality.


5. Got Transition –Center for Health Care Transition Improvement

The Got Transition website sponsored by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health provides information and resources to improve transition from pediatric to adult health care through the use of new and innovative strategies for health professionals and youth and families.


6. The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) Independent Living Publications:

The NCWD/Youth developed a number of resources related to Independent Living for transition age youth including:

· A Young Person’s Guide to Health Care Transition

· Making the Move to Managing Your Own Personal Assistance Services

· Taking Charge of Your Money: An Introduction to Financial Capability

· Developing Financial Capability Among Youth: How Families Can Help

7. PACER Center — The Path to Independence: Mobile Apps to Support Transition –Age Youth is a guide to free and low-cost mobile apps to support transition-age youth with disabilities as they embark on their journey towards post-secondary education and training opportunities.


Rowe, D. A., Alverson, C.Y., Unruh, D. K., Fowler, C.H., Kellums, R., & Test, D.W. (2015). A delphi study to operationalize evidence-based predictors in secondary transition. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 38, 113–126. doi:10.1177/2165143414526429.

Test, D. W., Mazzotti, V. L., Mustian, A. L., Fowler, C. H., Kortering, L. J., & Kohler, P. H. (2009). Evidence-based secondary transition predictors for improving post-school outcomes for students with disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 32, 160–181. Doi: 10.1177/0885728809346960



NTACT: the Collaborative

NTACT:C is a Technical Assistance and Dissemination project, funded by the OSEP and the RSA, Cooperative Agreement Number H326E140004.