Teaching Life Skills to Children with Autism Featuring Julie Swanson

In this episode, we are talking all about teaching life skills, and not just when it comes to adults with autism! You actually can and should start teaching life skills at a young age. Julie Swanson, The Life Skills Lady, joins me on this episode. She shares her personal journey of raising her son, Alex, who was diagnosed at a young age. We discuss the challenges she faced as she fought for his education and support, which led her to become a special education advocate. Julie focuses on life skills for individuals on the autism spectrum, as she believes these skills are essential in improving their quality of life and increasing independence.


  • Julie Swanson’s personal journey into the world of autism
  • The importance of life skills for individuals with autism
  • Promoting safety, independence, and happiness through life skills
  • Resources and support for advocating for life skills in IEP meetings

Julie Swanson

We start this episode and explore the growing prevalence of autism and the need for continued support as individuals with autism transition into adulthood. Julie’s background in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and special education law gives us insight into the scarcity of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) in Connecticut prior to 2000 and her own certification journey.

Life Skills IEP Goals

Throughout the episode, we emphasize the importance of teaching life skills for all children, regardless of whether they have autism or not. We touch on the significance of self-care and provide insights into critical life skills necessary for safety, independence, and happiness. We also address the need to incorporate life skills into Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and provide resources to aid in advocating for these skills during IEP meetings. Adding life skills IEP goals may receive pushback from your team, but you do have a legal right to include these goals as we discuss. 

Life Skills for Autism

We discuss the difficulties faced by young adults with autism in areas such as employment, education, independent living, socializing, and overall health and safety. By teaching life skills for autism early in a childs life, we can improve some of these statistics. Our mission is to increase life skills and improve the quality of life for individuals with autism, one skill at a time.

Join us as we explore the importance of conceptual skills, social skills, and practical life skills in the development of individuals with autism. I bet, when you think life skills, you are only thinking, like I was, about practical life skills. Julie introducing us to teaching conceptual and social life skills is important! We stress the value of understanding social rules, detecting motivations, and preventing victimization and deception.

Navigating Pain

Additionally, we discuss the significance of teaching children with autism how to communicate pain and discomfort and share personal stories of utilizing assistive technology to overcome fear of medical proceduresm like the buzzy. We emphasize the importance of desensitization at an early age and utilizing proven reinforcement strategies.

The podcast also underscores the need for long-term solutions in teaching life skills, rather than relying on short-term fixes. We highlight the importance of work and developing life skills for future employment. We stress the need to advocate for incorporating life skills into IEPs and provide resources for parents to navigate this process.

In conclusion, this episode empowers parents and professionals to take charge and positively influence the development of children with special needs. We stress the importance of skill acquisition and provide resources to aid in advocating for life skills. Join us as we explore the world of autism and the impact of life skills on individuals’ quality of life.

Julie Swanson on Turn Autism Around Podcast

Julie Swanson is the parent of an adult with an autism spectrum disorder and a special education advocate. Her career as an advocate grew out of her own advocacy efforts for her son. She is the founder of lifeskillslady.com, a website devoted to the critical link between life skills, increased independence and quality of life in autism. 

She can be found @lifeskillslady across social media. Julie is also the author of Your Special Education Rights: What Your School District Isn’t Telling and the companion website yourspecialeducationrights.com, a video-based website that helps parents understand their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.