One Class at a Time: Teaching Life Skills to students with intellectual disabilities

By Audrey Wise

March 26, 2014 Updated Mar 26, 2014 at 8:00 PM CDT

BARTONVILLE, Ill -- Some Heart of Illinois teachers believe teaching children certain skills at an early age can make them more successful in the future. That is especially the case for students with intellectual disabilities.

Katlyn Linsley teaches an all autistic classroom for 2nd and 4th graders.

She teaches them everything from reading, math and social studies to life and self-help skills. But her and life skills teacher Toni Pflum are dreaming big and want to do more. They are hoping to start a pre-vocational room for their students with special needs.

"Our room is going to focus on pre-work skills. So, teaching them to follow a schedule, teaching them how to follow rules, so if your job says you need to do a, b, and c, they need to learn how to follow it and then we're hoping those skills generalize to anything as they grow older," said Linsley.

Pflum said their goal is to have several stations in the room, "laundry area so that they can sort and do laundry, dry it, fold it, stack it. We're going to have a grocery area, so we'll have groceries and a cash register so that they can pick those groceries and add up amounts."

They also want to have a kitchen/restaurant area and a banking center.

Linsley said the grant money will be a great jump start on the project and go towards lots of supplies, "clothes for them to practice folding or restaurant items for them to practice preparing food, setting plates, so we're looking at a lot of those basic needs to set up all of our different areas."

Both teachers said the real-life skills learned in a classroom like this can help them hit the ground running in high school and hopefully lead to a fulfilling life.