Home Speech-Language Pathology 12 Skills and 5 Household Chores That Build Vocational Skills

12 Skills and 5 Household Chores That Build Vocational Skills

by Rebecca Eisenberg
written by

girl setting table

Editor’s Note: This blog post originally appeared on Friendship Circle.

As a speech-language pathologist, I worked with many older children and adults with varying developmental disabilities without any experience in vocational skills.


Most of these individuals can complete these types tasks, but lack the experience. They often lacked encouragement at home to learn basic chores. Successfully completing chores can lead to greater success in vocational settings, especially with regard to taking responsibility and learning to respect authority.

Encourage clients and their caregivers to try these five chores at home. They all teach skills useful for future vocational experience.

  1. Laundry

For individuals with developmental disabilities, laundry can become an opportunity to incorporate speech and language goals and teach future life skills. For example, doing laundry can improve:

  • Categorization (separating whites from colors)
  • Following directions
  • Literacy (reading the words on the care tags, washer & dryer, detergent, etc.)
  • Math skills (measuring the detergent)
  • Problem-solving (what happens when you add too much soap, etc.)
  • Sequencing (timing loads and establishing process)

Experience with the task of laundry can help lead to jobs such as working in a hotel, laundromat, fitness center, hospital and more.

  1. Filing

Even in a household, something always needs to be filed—instruction manuals, receipts, warranties, tax returns, photos and more. If your client can’t read yet, instruct parents to give them organizational projects based on color or first letter. Try placing a picture on the file folder with a corresponding word to help the individual recognize the folder name.

This activity can help teach:

  • Categorization
  • Literacy
  • Following directions
  • Expanding vocabulary
  • Sequencing

Experience with filing can ready a child for working in an office.

  1. Preparing food

SLPs can target many speech and language goals associated with food preparation. Useful skills learned by the child include:

  • Sequencing
  • Literacy
  • Expanding vocabulary
  • Articulation
  • Describing and commenting
  • Actions
  • Answering “wh” questions
  • Problem solving
  • Turn taking
  • Recalling information

I wrote a previous blog post on these skills and how they relate to food preparation. Experience with these tasks can lead to a job in a restaurant, coffee shop or catering business.

  1. Recycling

Recycling provides an ideal opportunity to teach a client how to categorize different items—plastic, paper, metal and glass. Discuss the objects’ properties. How are they the same? How are they different? Discuss why it’s important to recycle and what’s involved in the process.

Related future jobs  (involving recycling or organizing objects) include working at a supermarket or café.

  1. Setting the table

Setting the table offers another opportunity to develop these skills:

  • Following directions
  • Problem-solving (Will you need spoons for the meal?)
  • Sequencing (First put the plates down, then the napkins, then silverware.)

Teaching a client to set a table gives them responsibility at home and can lead to skills useful in a restaurant, at a party planning company or other hospitality work.

Many approaches exist to help a child with developmental disabilities find meaningful employment, but some work needs to be done at home to help develop the child’s skill set.


Becca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor, and parent of two young children. She also writes a blog, called Gravity Bread, for parents. She’s worked for many years with both children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings including schools, day habilitation programs, home care and clinics. becca@gravitybread.com


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Melissa October 5, 2016 - 6:33 pm

Meaningful work is so crucial to our sense of belonging and contribution in this world. Thanks, Rebecca, for these concrete suggestions for ways to cultivate that sense of purpose starting at an early age.

Becca October 7, 2016 - 3:31 pm

Thank you for such a wonderful comment!!

Melissa Page Deutsch October 7, 2016 - 6:01 pm

You are welcome! Great article!

Full Spectrum Mama October 14, 2016 - 10:38 am

These are great ideas with fabulous extrapolations but how about another post on actually getting kids to DO these things 🙂
Thanks and love,
Full Spectrum Mama

Karen George October 16, 2016 - 9:22 pm

Rebecca, thanks for your thoughts. I loved how your post lays out simple ways to take everyday tasks and transform them into opportunities to increase a multitude of skills! We run a therapeutic preschool-styled program for children. What you suggested in your post is something we already do, but it has challenged me to think how we can do this even more. It is about uncovering these unseen opportunities that are all around us. You have already given me 2 ideas we can start using right away. Thanks again for sharing your perspective.

Karen George,

Rebecca Eisenberg October 17, 2016 - 6:55 am

Great comment! I think the best way to take on one of these chores at home is to choose one that is more motivating and familiar. Check with the program or school on what vocational programs the child is already familiar with and that can help you choose a chore. For example, if the child is practicing recycling at school, you can start with that. Most of the time, individuals enjoy having a chore because it feels like a contribution. It’s also an opportunity that they can do something independently and well. Additionally, it’s predictable which makes it even better. I would love to hear your feedback!

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