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  • Writer's pictureGray Matters Alliance

A New Year for Learning New Skills and Setting Goals

Goal setting

For individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) or those with traumatic brain injury (TBI), living independently necessitates taking small steps to achieve the greater goal. Gaining personal independence also requires learning new skills, especially crucial life and soft skills. 

Goal setting often involves setting milestones focused on mastering a specific skill or even a list of skills. Caregivers providing daily support to those with IDD or TBI can guide their loved ones on a goal-setting strategy for learning new skills. 

Table of Contents: 

New Skills to Learn 

Adult Life Skills 

● Independent Living Skills 

● Assistive Technology for Independent Living 

Life Skills for Teens 

● How Does Technology Help Students with Disabilities Become More Independent? Hard vs. Soft Skills 

● Examples of Soft Skills 

Set Your Goals 

● Smart Goals Examples 


Setting goals to learn new skills helps increase independence and increase confidence. Set realistic goals and help individuals with IDD or TBI acquire essential skills that enhance their lives. 

New Skills to Learn 

Goal setting for learning new skills requires identifying the skills the individual wants to learn. Caregivers or family members can sit down and discuss different independent living skills and life skills. In these discussions, create a dialogue to help individuals identify the skills that truly interest them. 

Every individual with IDD or TBI has different strengths and struggles, and these unique abilities and difficulties impact the skills they learn and how they learn them. For example, an individual whose brain injury affects short-term memory might need to use prompts or checklists as they learn to master a skill. 

Individuals who wish to increase their independence might focus on mastering these crucial skills: 

● Medication administration (i.e., taking charge of their medication) 

● Basic cooking skills 

● How to do laundry 

● How to schedule appointments and manage time 

● Hygiene and grooming 

● Money management 

Adult Life Skills 

Adults with TBI or IDD who live with a parent, relative, or in a group home might not be prepared or able to live independently without some assistance. Yet, individuals may still be able to acquire a new skill that enables them to have greater independence and freedom. 

Independent Living Skills 

Daily skills that are required for independent living are performed by most individuals automatically. These skills and tasks are ingrained into daily habits. Getting dressed, brushing teeth, showering, paying bills, cooking, cleaning, planning appointments, and even taking medication becomes a simple routine. 

These tasks–these simple routines–are not simple for everyone. These skills that allow for so much independence become a "goal" for some individuals with TBI or IDD.

Assistive Technology for Independent Living 

Gray Matters Alliance offers assistive technology that aids independence and helps adults with IDD or TBI learn new life skills. GMA offers assistive technology systems on a tablet or a 19-inch monitor. This technology incorporates numerous features that offer daily guidance and assistance. 

As every individual has different needs, the technology is customizable. The many features of the technology include: 

● Remote video assessments (in real-time) 

● Fall alerts 

● Medication management and reminders 

● Alerts for vital signs 

● A calendar and scheduler 

● Task lists 

● Tutorials (how-to guides) 

Assistive Tech Helps with Cooking 

Gray Matters' assistive tech includes how-to videos that guide individuals through different daily tasks, including how to cook or prepare basic foods. These tutorials teach individuals how to prepare a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and other simple meals. 

These helpful videos include simple directions and show each step of the process. The goal is to provide the necessary tools for independence. 

How Assistive Technology Simplifies Medication Management 

The GMA system also reminds individuals when it's time to take their medication and includes prompts on the dose. Caregivers can combine assistive tech with our medication dispenser products. This ensures the right dose every time, and both the assistive tech and our med dispensers provide alerts indicating when it's time to take a dose. 

Assistive Technology Aids Time Management 

Remembering the time and date of a doctor's appointment, event, or meeting is a crucial life skill. However, forgetting an appointment happens to everyone. For individuals with TBI or IDD, forgetting an appointment or meeting might be a more common occurrence. 

Assistive technology from Gray Matters Alliance features a calendar to ensure no appointment or event is missed; the calendar provides reminders and alerts of every scheduled item. These reminders help individuals remember what to do and where to go during their day. 

Task lists provide visual reminders of what individuals must accomplish throughout the day (and when). The task list allows individuals to check off the task when it's complete, increasing feelings of accomplishment.

How Assistive Technology Provides Peace of Mind 

For caregivers, using Gray Matters' assistive technology also provides peace of mind related to understanding the safety and security of loved ones. The system includes alerts that notify caregivers about home temperature, open doors and windows, falls, and even vital signs. The system is customizable also to provide data related to temperatures above the stove/oven and optional remote monitoring data. Sensors installed throughout the home sync with the system to provide comprehensive updates related to movements and daily activities. Using this data, caregivers can learn if their loved one stays in bed all day, is in distress, or if the home is at an inadequate temperature. 

Life Skills for Teens 

Teens typically live with a parent or guardian. They may desire to gain more independence as they watch their friends start to drive and notice that other peers have more freedom. How Does Technology Help Students with Disabilities Become More Independent? 

Assistive technology and other devices from Gray Matters Alliance help teens gain more freedom and learn new skills. 

The scheduler and calendar on the system allow teens to remember important test dates, homework assignments due dates, and even school events. The calendar provides notifications, so they always have a reminder. 

Teens may begin to push away from allowing their parents to manage their medication. Again, assistive technology and automated medication dispensers ensure that teens receive reminders when it's time to take their medication and also tell them the specific dose. 

How-to videos also help teens learn how to make sandwiches, do simple yoga, and learn many other different skills. These videos offer simple step-by-step instructions. 

Life Skill Goals for Teens 

Teens might have different skills and goals than adults. Teens may wish to gain skills that allow them greater independence from their parents and enjoy the same privileges as their friends. Specifically, teens might want to set a goal to: 

● Learn to drive (this might or might not be a reasonable goal for every teen)

● Take charge of their medication 

● Go to activities alone 

● Navigate experiences without parents (i.e. walking to a library alone) 

● Learn to cook 

● Manage self-care routines

Some teens might struggle with choosing proper clothing for the weather or managing their hygiene properly. Some goals might include smaller tasks and goals that lead to achieving the larger goal. 

Hard vs. Soft Skills 

Not all skills are "hard skills," which denotes a task related to a specific ability. Hard skills include balancing a checkbook, cooking, and even cleaning. These tasks also include job-related skills. 

Soft skills aren't measurable, but they are very important. Knowing how to read body language, understanding intonation, and having empathy are all "soft skills." Talking on the phone properly also is a soft skill. 

Teens and adults can set goals to learn soft skills that help them in the social world or in the workforce. While these skills can be a bit more challenging to teach, Gray Matters Alliance offers tutorials via assistive technology to help teens and adults learn some of these skills. 

Set Your Goals 

When individuals have decided the skill they wish to learn, it's time to set a goal. Caregivers need to help individuals create steps to achieve this goal, especially if the skill is a bit more difficult (like driving). 

Work together to create a plan for achieving the goal. What steps are necessary, and how can these steps work together to help master the desired skill? 

Create SMART Goals 

All goals should be SMART. This acronym means: 

● Specific 

● Measurable 

● Achievable 

● Relevant 

● Time-Bound 


This means that every goal must be narrowed down and action-based. 


How can success be measured? What steps are necessary to achieve the goal?


Individuals should not set a goal that they cannot achieve. For example, they cannot set a goal for owning a car if they don't yet know how to drive. 


Is the goal relevant to their life? 


By what date should they achieve their goal? Setting a time to the goal helps provide motivation.

Help Individuals Map Out The Goal 

Once a goal has been set, help map out the goal. Use a dry erase board or a poster board to create a visual representation of the goal and outline the steps for the goal. Add the target mastery date, too. 

Mastering a new skill calls for celebrating the accomplishment. Learning a new skill adds another level of freedom and independence; use this accomplishment to set new goals for learning additional skills and moving towards greater personal independence! 


How do you teach life skills to adults with disabilities? 

Teaching life skills to adults with disabilities involves an approach customized to their learning needs. Some individuals learn best by using video tutorials, but, for others, shadowing or watching an individual perform a skill offers maximum learning benefits.


What are life skills? 

Life skills denote the most important skills essential to daily living. These skills include grooming, personal hygiene, time management, money management, cooking, etc. 

What are basic life skills? 

Basic life skills are fundamental–personal hygiene, grooming, feeding/cooking, etc. 

Why is it important to set realistic goals? 

When unrealistic goals are difficult to achieve and may seem out of reach, setting unrealistic goals diminishes motivation and increases frustration. Goals should be achievable, actionable, and have a set achievement date.


Gray Matters Alliance (GMA) is committed to improving the lives of aging seniors and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through independent living technology, remote support tools, and educational resources. We collaborate closely with families and organizations to enable independent and secure living in preferred environments.

If you want to learn more about Gray Matters Alliance, you can visit their website or follow them on Facebook @graymattersalliance.

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