Brain injury - Living skills

  • Living skills include activities such as travel, cooking, social skills and managing finances. Independent living skills are an important area to address for young people with a brain injury. Children who have a brain injury early in life may experience difficulties developing independence in living skills.

    An occupational therapist is the main professional involved in working on living skills with the child/young person. Nursing staff are also involved when the child or young person is in hospital, and families remain actively involved throughout.

    What is the treatment?

    An assessment of the child or young person's abilities in certain tasks helps identify what the difficulties are. For example, does the child have problems with organising and planning things, or do physical issues limit their independence?

    Results from the assessment determine what the intervention strategy will be, and what actions need to be taken.

    Daily routines are important for a child or young person with a brain injury. After a brain injury, the child or young person may have difficulty initiating and starting activities, planning how to do them, solving problems that arise and maintaining concentration. Routines can help children and young people to remember what needs to be done and in what order.

    Intervention strategies may include:

    • repeating what needs to be done over and over again
    • cue cards and prompt sheets
    • group programs - these are very useful for helping with social skills
    • specialised adaptive equipment may be needed to help independence in some tasks e.g. cooking aids, Dycem matting, spike cutting boards, built up handles for cutlery, tap turners

    As a general rule, practicing living skills is best done in the house or other environment where the child or young person will normally have to do that activity. This is because skills are often not generalised. For example, a travel training program should include sessions during the usual time of day the young person will be travelling so that the impact of factors such as noise, crowds and distractions can be considered.

    More information


    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Paediatric Rehabilitation Service based on information from the Brain Injury Service at Westmead Children’s Hospital. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Reviewed September 2020.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit


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