As society becomes increasingly competitive and demanding, it is only better for children to develop their adaptive skills early on in life to excel in a multitude of areas. This is why preschoolers who possess the ability to acquire these crucial skills at an early age are considered not only resilient but also endowed with a remarkable ability to adapt to a new situation because they are more confident and independent. Many parents don’t know which adaptive skills their preschoolers must possess and, therefore, struggle to identify whether their child can be considered “on track” developmentally.
Preschool teachers also have the responsibility of assessing children’s adaptive skills before they begin attending school to ensure they are ready for the school environment. This is important because children need to possess specific adaptive skills to succeed in preschool, and an assessment can help identify areas where a child may need additional support. Hence, we have compiled an exhaustive checklist that you can use to understand which skills a child is good at and the ones for which they need additional help.
What are adaptive skills, and why are they important?
The set of skills every individual must acquire in order to function efficiently in their daily lives is known as adaptive skills. These skills empower people to take care of them themselves, make decisions, learn new things, and communicate effectively with others.
Adaptive skills are developmental, which means people learn them as they grow and mature. Therefore, you’ll find that every age group has its own set of adaptive skills that individuals must learn to sail smoothly through daily life. For example, a 1-year-old must know how to drink from a cup and feed themself small pieces of food, a 3-year-old is expected to know how to eat simple foods with a fork or a spoon and brush their teeth, while on the other hand, a young adult must possess safe money handling skills.
Coming back to young children, why do you think adaptive skills are so important? These skills are essential because they enable kids to navigate their environment, perform daily activities independently, and socialize with their peers and other adults. Kids who develop age-appropriate adaptive skills are more likely to succeed in school and become independent adults later in life. Moreover, these skills foster independence and self-reliance, leading to increased confidence and self-esteem in children, which are crucial for a child’s overall growth and development.
Adaptive skills checklist: A tool to assess preschoolers
If you are a preschool teacher or a parent of a child between 3-4 years old, here is a list of questions for you to answer. These questions will help you understand in which stage of skill development your child is and whether they need additional support to maintain similar progress as their peers and achieve the best personal outcomes.
- Can the child use the toilet with little to no assistance?
- Does the child understand when a parent or a teacher approves/disapproves of their actions?
- Can the child settle down to take a nap during the day?
- Is the child interested in sitting with a book and browsing through the pages?
- Is the child good at expressing emotions?
- Can the child dress and undress independently, including unzipping coats or unbuttoning large buttons?
- Does the child wait to take turns during group activities?
- Can the child manage to brush their teeth and hair well enough?
- Can the child play in a group of 2-3 children?
- Can the child self-feed with a spoon and fork?
- Does the child know how to wash their hands with soap and water?
- Can the child wipe their hands and face with a tissue or a towel?
- Does the child enjoy or can tolerate messy play?
- Can the child remember where familiar things are kept?
- Does the child put things back in place when told to do so?
- Does the child love to engage in imaginative play?
- Can the child distinguish clearly between poop and pee and name them correctly?
- Can the child say when they need to use the toilet?
- Does the child try to problem-solve before asking for help?
- Does the child stick to one activity until it finishes?
- Can the child make a choice when given multiple options?
- Does the child know how to blow their nose?
- Does the child know how to sneeze safely in their elbow?
- Does the child adapt to new situations without difficulty?
- Does the child communicate needs and wants and ask for help when required?
Who can use this checklist, and how?
As stated before, an adaptive skills checklist can be helpful for two groups of people. The first group is parents who have a child ready to go to preschool or is already in preschool to check if they are developing skills as per age. And the second group is preschool teachers, who can use this checklist to identify if a child is ready to attend school. They can also use it mid-term to identify the skills a child needs to work on to get better at them and subsequently, use it as they get closer to the year’s end to ascertain if the child has improved on those skills.
Checklists for adaptive skills and that for functional skills are great for tracking if a child is developing essential skills on time. As a preschool classroom comprises several children, these checklists act as a record that teachers can refer to later. While most preschool kids acquire age-appropriate adaptive skills on time, some need more time or help to master them. By referring to individual student checklists, teachers know exactly what skill a child needs help with and can devise appropriate strategies to help the child get better.
How to handle adaptive skill issues in children?
Developing adaptive skills is not a one-day affair. Children require time and practice to get better at these skills. We must remember that kids acquire these skills at their own pace. Some sooner, some later. The job of parents and teachers is to find ways to promote these skills, especially for children lagging behind their peers in developing these skills. A few tips for handling adaptive skills issues in children are:
- Break down each skill into simple steps and explain it to the child.
- Allow enough time so the child can complete the task.
- Stick to one step until the child masters it, and then move on to the next.
- Provide hands-on assistance when required.
- Model the skill for better comprehension.
- Use charts and visuals to remind the steps involved.
- Provide ample opportunities to practice the skill.
- Reward the child for practicing good and adaptive behavior.
- Use positive reinforcement and share positive comments during parent-teacher conferences to appreciate the child’s efforts.
The preschool adaptive skills checklist is an invaluable tool for parents and teachers alike. Through assessment of a child’s abilities in various areas such as communication, self-help, and socialization, this checklist provides valuable insights into their developmental progress. By utilizing this comprehensive list of adaptive skills, educators can easily identify areas where children might require additional support or intervention to succeed academically and personally.
Professionals such as the school occupational therapist and the school psychologist can be of great help here. They can provide valuable guidance to the teacher so they can support these skills in the classroom. This early intervention will ultimately contribute to better outcomes for children in the long run.