• Intercept Health

To Write Your Name or To Not Write Your Name, That Is The Question….

Is it better that your kindergarten student be able to tie his shoes or write his name? Both are skills every parent and every teacher wants their 5-year-old to know but who should teach them? Should the parent be responsible for teaching their child before they begin their school journey? Should the teacher work on one or both skills? How are the best ways to teach these skills? These are not easy questions to answer.

When my children began school, I made sure they knew their alphabet and how to write their names, all the important skills. I made sure I had “prepared” them for school and life…or so I thought. I began teaching after my children started school and it soon became painfully aware I had not “prepared” my children after all. Then I became a behavior analyst and learned how to help teach these ADL’s or daily living skills to increase independence.


As a teacher, I appreciated the students who came to school and knew their numbers and letters, but I appreciated far more the students who could put their coat on and off and the students who could open their milk carton or lunches without assistance. These simple daily living skills can be completed once an individual has been taught the steps involved in each task.


So, what can we do to help our children gain these all-important skills? Applied Behavior Analysis can allow skills to be taught specifically to individuals. These skills, ADL’s, can be broken down into behavior chains that are appropriate for the child and their individual abilities. Skills may then be taught through imitation and prompt levels.


I learned, as a behavior analyst, the far best skills I can teach my child and other children are the ones that foster independence. Acquiring daily living skills can promote independence. ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) can assist with that. When your child needs assistance with task analysis and daily living skills applied behavior analysis can help teach them simple steps broken down to assist with successful completion of skills such as shoe tying. When our children can complete activities independently, they can navigate through daily tasks without assistance. Independence can begin by setting high expectations and to not do for our children that they can do for themselves. The basis of positive parenting as caregivers is to move our children from complete dependence to complete independence. Independence leads to confidence. As parents, teachers, and behavior analysts we need to teach our children the skills they need to grow with independence because the independence we teach through life skills will let them soar through life.


The skills I feel are a few of the most important are basic life skills and confidence builders are:

  • Know their name and caretakers name

  • Put on a jacket, mittens, and a hat, and to zip or button

  • Put papers away in a backpack

  • What an “inside” voice is

  • Help clean up toys and materials at clean up time

  • Open snack and lunch containers and throw away trash after a snack, know if a lunch was brought and what the lunchbox looks like

  • Use a urinal and shut the bathroom doors, undo clothing, wipe themselves, and pull their pants up and down


Melissa R. Dean is a Licensed Behavior Analyst who works with Intercept Health as a Clinical Coordinator of ABA Services. Melissa believes in the utilization of behavior therapy and seeks to identify and help change potentially self-destructive or unhealthy behaviors of her clients. Melissa operates on the idea that all behaviors are learned and that unhealthy behaviors can be changed.


Melissa graduated with a M.Ed. with a major in Special Education and a certification in ABA from George Mason University. She also has a Master of Arts in Education from Emory and Henry University. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Administrative Leadership with Carson Newman University.


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