Skip to content

Life Skills IEP Goal Ideas

2 preteens doing dishes

At a Glance

Life Skills IEP Framework: Outlining the importance of life skills in IEP goals for fostering independence in adulthood.

Goal Customization: Providing strategies for personalizing life skills goals to align with students' unique needs and aspirations.

Diverse Skill Categories: Exploring a variety of life skills, from cooking to personal finance, and offering sample goals for educational planning. 

Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals are the building blocks of a curriculum that helps students pursue the goals that are most important and valuable to them later on in adulthood. Yet writing a good IEP can feel like a fraught process at times. Not only are you looking to identify and select goals that are reflective of the needs and goals of your student, you are also likely trying to meet specific standards and requirements set forth either by your school district or someone in a supervisory role to you. 

Identifying and clearly laying out goals is an important part of the process - after all we call it an individualized education plan for a reason! But it can also be incredibly helpful to have some starting points to build off of or an array of suggested goals that fit under the umbrella of the bigger goal you and your student are trying to achieve.

One place we share some of these starting points is with our free Life Skills IEP Goals Idea Booklet, but we wanted to take some time covering some of the ideas in that booklet on our blog as well. 

In the first part of this series we will focus in on Life Skills goals but will also be covering executive functioning, self-advocacy, vocational skills, social skills, behavior, and community skills. Be sure to check out our free guides for even more info on translating starting ideas into more official IEP language. 

So this week let’s take a closer look at some life skills goals and how we can flesh them out into useful individualized benchmarks!

Note: If you are developing Person-Centered Plans for community-based services, these Life Skills Ideas are applicable as well! 

Why Life Skills Goals

Life skills include the wide variety of skills we might employ as adults day to day to live comfortably in our space and ensure our personal needs are met. Some life skills might come fairly naturally whereas others might require more practice and effort to master, and that is before we talk about incorporating specific skills into a broader daily routine! 

Life skill goals are great to include for any student seeking out independent living in adulthood, whether they wish to be completely independent or independent with some supports. 

Customizing a Goal Suggestion

As we noted above and in our guides, goal suggestions can be customized to meet the needs and goals of individual students. Because IEP goals cover such a wide range of skills, measurements, local compliance guidelines, and students there isn’t one clear cut way to translate a goal idea into an individualized goal. 

We have, however, created a basic goal template that outlines some of the things you might include in an official IEP goal depending on what you are trying to accomplish with that goal: 


If you are interested in diving a little deeper into this topic you can find more on individualization in our free booklet, but we will also be sharing some examples from the list of goals below. So let’s dive into some examples! 

Life Skills Categories

🍳 Cooking and Meal Prep

Cooking skills can range from using specific tools and appliances to following recipes to planning out meals to staying organized. Even for students not especially interested in cooking, picking up a few basic cooking skills can be a huge time and money saver when it comes to independent living and can be especially valuable to Autistic adults who like to have as much control over their diet as possible. 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:

Cooking utensils, tools, equipment, and appliances

  • Learn about, identify, select, and use cooking utensils, tools, equipment, and appliances according to their recommended use
  • Combine/stir/mix/blend/whisk items in a bowl
  • Pour items into a bowl or into a measuring cup and/or spoon


  • Follow a multiple step recipe
  • Given a recipe, check what items are in stock
  • Given a recipe, make a shopping list of items are needed
  • Answer comprehension questions after reading a recipe
  • Sequence steps in a recipe
  • Identify and retrieve cooking utensils, tools, & equipment according to recipe
  • Identify and retrieve items and ingredients according to recipe
  • Identify correct measuring cups & spoons for recipe
  • Use all items listed above according to the recipe

During Cooking

  • Select and make a preferred meal
  • Make a meal that requires measuring, mixing, microwaving, boiling, and/or baking
  • Set and use timer when cooking
  • Learn about and demonstrate cooking cleanliness (wash hands before and after, what to do with eggs and meats, what to do with discarded pieces)
  • Follow cooking safety rules (knife, heating, oven mitts)


  • Clean food preparation surface and utensils before and after use
  • Determine where to store foods (refrigerator/freezer/pantry)
  • Store leftovers in the correct location (refrigerator/freezer) 

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Cooking utensils, tools, equipment, and appliances - learn about, identity, select, and use cooking utensils, tools, equipment, and appliances according to their recommended use.

“By 9/15/24, Jenny will identify common cooking utensils, tools, equipment, and appliances by their recommended use with at least 80% accuracy in 4 out of 5 trials.”

Example 2: During cooking - learn about and demonstrating cooking cleanliness (wash hands before and after, what to do with eggs and meats, what to do with discarded scraps)

“By 10/1/24, Sean will learn about cooking cleanliness and demonstrate understanding of key cleanliness concepts including when to wash hands, preventing cross-contamination, and disposing of scraps with 90% accuracy in 2 out of 3 classroom cooking sessions.” 

🧺 Cleaning

Cleaning skills can include using specific cleaning tools, managing household chores, and specific activities during laundry, washing dishes, waste removal, or other related household tasks. Cleaning skills are among the building blocks of a healthy independent living routine, and the more we master these individual skills the easier they are to incorporate into a day to day schedule. 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:

Cleaning tools

  • Identify cleaning tools
  • Identify uses of cleaning tools and cleaners (e.g., window cleaner)

Cleaning task

  • Follow a [#] step cleaning task
  • Complete a cleaning task using a cleaning checklist
  • Sequence steps in a cleaning task


  • Sort clothing for laundry
  • Load the washer or dryer and turn on
  • Determine settings for a certain load on the washer and dryer
  • Put away and organize clothes

Wash dishes

  • Wash and dry dishes (e.g., # plates, bowls, silverware)
  • Load and unload dishwasher


  • Learn about and demonstrate recycling (sort what is trash vs. recycling)
  • Take out trash (empty trash container and replace bag)

Other tasks

  • Wipe surfaces (e.g., tables, counters, board, wall, windows)
  • Organize and maintain a clean space (e.g., desk, cubby, locker, room)
  • Identify and retrieve tools for cleaning, describe their uses (windex, soap)
  • Identify areas that need to be cleaned, learn about and practice strategies for cleaning (dusting, what to use for cleaning electronics)
  • Follow cleaning safety rules (e.g., smells, what to do with spills, what to do with dirty water, dirty cleaning towels) 

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Cleaning task - Complete a cleaning task using a cleaning checklist

“By 9/15/24, given a checklist of steps and up to 3 reminders per step, Cody will wash and dry dishes while adhering to at least 80% of steps in 4 out of 5 sessions.”

Example 2: Laundry - sort clothing for laundry

“By 10/1/24, given guidelines on how to sort clothing for laundry and at least 3 practice sessions, Ava will sort clothing items to the guidelines’ specifications with at least 80% accuracy in 3 out of 4 trials.”

💳 Personal Finance and Money

Personal finance skills can run the gamut from determining what to do with one’s own budget to learning how to complete specific tasks like paying bills to more opaque and nebulous skills like choosing the right credit card or learning how to save money to build toward a large financial goal. 

For better or worse, money plays a major role in all of our lives and it is helpful to build up our skills to feel more confident in how we allocate our personal resources! 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:


  • Comparison shop between items on a menu, ad, at the store
  • Calculate how to split a bill between other people at a restaurant
  • Calculate leaving a tip on a bill or purchase
  • Read and understand the line items of receipts (individual items purchased)
  • Calculate and add tax to a purchase (sales tax)
  • Calculate % off for sales, discounts, or coupons

Paying Bills

  • Learn how to pay a bill online
  • Identify the different line items of a bill (utilities, amount used)

Credit card/debit card

  • Learn about how to use a credit/debit card, responsibilities, safety
  • Calculate interest and APR on unpaid amount


  • Add costs of living (rent, groceries, utilities) and budget for saving
  • Make a budget (weekly, monthly, for each expense)
  • Calculate wage and number of works worked, compare to pay stub/timesheet

Bank account

  • Learn about how to open a bank account, compare and contrast different banks, checking and savings accounts
  • Balance a bank account, including checking and savings

Saving money

  • Learn about the different methods to saving money (savings account, investing)

After high school

  • Learn about student loans, how and why they are used, and the types
  • Learn about Social Security Income, Medicaid, how and why used 

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Budget - Make a budget (weekly, monthly, for each expense) 

“By 5/2/24, given a baseline weekly school lunch budget, Jordan will choose what cafeteria items he will buy each day for the week and come in at or under budget in at least 3 out of 4 weeks.”

Example 2: Purchases - Comparison shop between items on a menu, ad, or at the store

 “By 10/1/24, given a catalog of items to compare, Jessica will select which one she would purchase and explain her reasoning related to the price and quality of the product in 9 out of 10 prompts.”

📰 Functional Reading

Functional reading refers to reading activities related to jobs, communication, day to day tasks, schedule, current events, social media, the weather, and many other modes of communications that require a little bit of specialized knowledge to interpret as intended. 

Whether we are talking about how to interpret posts that are made through a social media lens and practicing online literacy or reading a nutrition label to make sure we are getting enough daily protein, we can all use a little help from functional reading skills! 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:

Read, analyze, review, and answer comprehension questions on:

  • Nutrition labels
  • Recipes
  • Stove and oven dials
  • Timers
  • Analog and digital clocks
  • Restaurant bills and receipts
  • Bills (e.g., utility, credit/debit card)
  • Menus and brochures
  • Invitations and mailing letters
  • Magazine and store ads
  • Product/Business review  (prior to a purchase online or in person)
  • Directories
  • Job description listings
  • Job applications
  • Resumes, cover letters
  • Emails
  • Texts
  • Current events/news
  • Social media posts (online literacy)
  • Thermometers
  • Weather forecast
  • Calendars and schedules
  • Shopping lists
  • Tax forms (1040, W2, 1090)
  • Websites 

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Read, analyze, review, and answer comprehension questions on - Nutrition labels 

“By 10/15/24, given instructions, a visual guide, and teacher support, Christina will read, analyze, review, and answer comprehension questions on nutrition labels with at least 80% accuracy on 2 out of 3 tests.”

Example 2: Read, analyze, review, and answer comprehension questions on - Weather forecasts

“By 3/20, given instructions, a visual guide, and teacher support, Henry will read, analyze, review, and answer comprehension questions on the weather forecast with at least 80% accuracy on 2 out of 3 tests.

➕ Functional Math

Functional math covers a broad range of math skills as they apply specifically to real world situations such as measuring ingredients, calculating tips, and counting money. It requires mastery of both the building block skill and knowing how to apply it! 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:


  • Count up to #
  • Count by 1s-10s and complete activities around counting by ___ (1-10)

Counting money

  • Count bills, coins, and/or money amounts
  • Determine which is more/less
  • For a given amount of money, what is the next dollar up/over
  • For a given amount of money, make change

Learn about the following math concepts and skills, complete word problems and scenarios using these skills:

  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
    • Bills, purchases, shopping, wages, salary, amount of money, amount of materials
  • Percentages
    • Tips, taxes, adding percentage to the bill, subtracting percentage from the total for a discount
  • Fractions and decimals
    • Money, food, portions
  • Measurement
    • Cooking, materials, items, furniture, spatial organization
  • Visual representations
    • Graphs, charts, scatterplots, create a graph
  • Volume
    • Weight, surface area, space in a 3D object, science
  • Time
    • Follow schedule, elapsed time, time left, time estimates 

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Measurement - cooking 

“By 12/18, given the appropriate measuring equipment and at least two opportunities to correct errors, Desmond will be able to measure powdered and liquid food ingredients within 5% of the target number with 80% accuracy.

Example 2: Measurement - furniture

“By 5/1, given measuring tape and support from a partner or instructor, Nadia will be able to correctly measure the dimensions of a piece of furniture and determine whether it will fit into a given space in at least 3 out of 5 attempts.”

💻 Functional Writing

Functional writing covers the huge array of ways we might organize our ideas to complete a specific task, whether we are making a shopping list, writing a resume, or optimizing how we use search engines, the things we write to complete those tasks often involves a specific skill set that requires some practice to master. 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:

Preview/review, create graphic organizers, and practice writing:

  • To do lists or checklists
  • Schedules
  • Shopping lists (e.g., grocery, back to school shopping)
  • Packing lists
  • Calendars
  • Tips
  • Job applications
  • Cover letters
  • Resume
  • Journal and reflection of the day
  • Printed forms that require personal information (e.g., doctor, dentist)
  • Electronic forms
  • Letters
  • Thank You Cards
  • Emails
  • Texts (across settings, people)
  • Timesheets
  • Notes and notetaking (e.g., on paper, typing)
  • Newsletter
  • Website (e.g., classroom website, blog)
  • Goals
  • Research online (e.g., search engine terms)
  • Social media posts for an organization
  • Instructions for a task, activity, to do list item
  • Recipes 

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Practice writing - Cover Letter 

“By 4/30, given at least 3 practice/revision sessions and instructor support and feedback, Leslie will write a cover letter tailored to a specific job description.”

Example 2: Practice writing - Shopping List

“By 10/1, given exercises that show sample pantries and a sample person’s weekly food needs, Jason will create a shopping list that correctly identifies at least 90% of the food items that need to be purchased with fewer than 3 unnecessary inclusions in 4 out of 5 attempts.”

🚿 Hygiene and Personal Care

Much like household chores, hygiene and personal care entail building up specific and relatively simple skills so that they can be incorporated into a comfortable and sustainable routine. 

It also involves learning some best practices associated with general good health and hygiene to keep ourselves as clean and healthy as possible and to effectively use remedies when needed. Because hygiene can be so personal, it is great to be able to practice these skills in a safe setting to make taking these steps independently that much easier! 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:

Body awareness + cleanliness

  • Learn body part awareness (e.g., point to and/or name parts on body)
  • Learn and identify tools to use to clean specific body parts
  • Learn and identify supplies needed for different hygiene tasks
  • Learn how to maintain body cleanliness, practice
  • Follow an established hygiene routine for staying clean


  • Identify places to cough (e.g., elbow)
  • Use tissue to wipe/blow nose
  • Learn about and identify what to do when sick, types of illness, and best practices to stay healthy

Hygiene routines

  • Brush/comb hair
  • Teeth
    • Brush teeth at least 2x per day
    • Brush all teeth for X amount of time, follow brushing routine
    • Floss teeth, follow flossing routine
    • Use mouthwash for X amount of time, follow mouthwash routine
  • Wash hands
    • Wash and dry hands after using the bathroom, coughing/sneezing, after X event
  • Toileting
  • Follow a routine for changing pads/tampons
  • Apply deodorant
  • Wash face
  • Showering 

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Health - Identify best practices to stay healthy 

“By 9/15, given instructor support and a written guide, Connor will demonstrate understanding of times when it is important to wash hands, how to cover a cough, and what to do when feeling sick with at least 80% accuracy in 2 out of 3 sessions.” 

Example 2: Hygiene Routines - Wash hands

“By 10/1, given instructor support and a written guide, Shannon will demonstrate understanding of the steps to washing and drying hands as well as key times when it is necessary to wash hands with 90% accuracy in 4 out of 5 practice sessions.”

📣 Self-Advocacy

Self-Advocacy skills can cover such a huge range of topics, but in this context we are referring to self-advocacy skills as they relate to other life skills. If I am learning to cook, how do I figure out what I want my diet to be? If I am learning how to save money, how do I know what options I have for what to do with it? 

If I am learning chores or personal hygiene, how do I know when a given product does not mesh well with my sensory needs? For some people, knowing how to reach the point of practicing effective self advocacy related to a particular skill is just as if not more important than learning the skill itself! 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:

Several components of self-advocacy interconnect with life skills. Incorporate these seven components across life skills activities and tasks: self-awareness and knowledge, goal-setting, choice-making, problem-solving, decision-making, self-regulation, and self-advocacy/self-determination.

Some examples in practice: ask for help, ask for a break, making a choice, making decisions about a task/activity, identifying preferences and advocating for them, learning about preferences (likes/dislikes), creating and working toward goals, navigating problems as they arise, using self-regulation during stressful moments.

  • Leisure and recreational activities
    • Learn about, identify preferences, and navigate leisure and recreational activities
  • Cooking and meal prep
    • Create a list of of favorite meals
    • Select and make a meal
    • Create a shopping list for selected meal
    • Navigate obstacles and challenges as they arise in cooking and baking
  • Cleaning
  • Personal finance and money
    • Learn about and create personal finance goals related to adulthood
  • Functional reading
  • Functional math
  • Functional writing
  • Hygiene and personal care
    • Identify sensory needs and challenges related to hygiene, select alternate strategies to make completing hygiene tasks easier 

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Cooking and meal prep - create a list of favorite meals 

“By 5/1, Susan will identify a list of her 10 favorite meals and each week will be able to decide which meal she wants to have on Thursday night within 10 minutes of being prompted.” 

Example 2: Hygiene and personal care - identify sensory needs and challenges related to hygiene

“By 4/2, given our agreed upon personal hygiene checklist and instructor support and guidance, Kevin will identify any personal needs or obstacles that make completing any portion of the checklist particularly difficult and propose strategies for addressing those needs or obstacles.” 


We hope this list of baseline ideas as well as some of the sample individualized goals we created help to offer a sense of how you can adjust some of these goal ideas to meet the individualized needs of students you are supporting. 

We are excited to share life skills as the first part of this series but will be jumping into several other categories of goal ideas in the coming weeks, but if you want to check them out ahead of time each of our IEP goal idea booklets is 100% free! 

In the meantime if you have any experiences related to IEP goal writing that you would like to share or topics you would like to see covered, drop us a line at and we will be back next week to take a closer look at community skills! 

Green squiggly line to mark the end of the blog post
Previous article Community Skills IEP Goal Ideas
Next article Tips for Showing Your Appreciation for Paraprofessionals and Staff

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields