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University of Edinburgh

Mobility and Independent Living Skills

Presented on Wednesday 13 September 2006

Independent living skills

Margaret Habgood

The independent living skills covered in this presentation are taught during Home Economics lessons, reinforced in residential areas and ideally practised at home.

In Home Economics one of the main aims is to enable pupils to become as independent as possible. In order to achieve this aim and for pupils to reach their full potential in independent living skills, the following are essential:

1. Fun and enjoyment

Pupils must be encouraged to be well motivated and to enjoy trying out new skills - which will then increase their self-confidence.

2. Familiarisation with work area

Pupils must be familiarised with their work area

  • in Home Economics room
  • in residential areas
  • at home

so that they can easily find all the equipment and foods they require.

3. Equipment must be adequately labelled and stored in a logical manner.

  • so that pupils can access it independently, whatever their eye condition;
  • so that it can be accessed easily and returned quickly after use;
  • so that pupils avoid being confused and frustrated.

4. Consistency of approach in instructing pupils in both skills and use of equipment; particularly important for students with additional support needs, to avoid confusion.

5. Reinforcement of skills learned at any appropriate time

  • in additional support needs classes
  • in residential areas
  • at home.


Using a number of different vessels such as cup, tumbler, mug, etc and various sizes of jug; using sleep shade, with guidance from partner, try to fill each vessel with water. Use finger to judge quantity of water in vessel and then have a go using the liquid level indicator.

1. Put liquid leve indicator onto mug / tumber / cup.
2. Line up the spout of the jug carefully with the vessel being filled.
3. If using finger instead of liquid level indicator, place finger inside top of vessel
4. Pour liquid carefully into vessel ensuring that the jug does not move!
5. When liquid level indicator bleeps or liquid touches your finger, stop pouring immediately.


Using either of the knives available, spread a slice of toast with soft margarine. This task should be completed using sleep shade, with the partner giving guidance, but toast will need to be made first! Note: It is easier for students to learn to spread using frozen bread.

1. Load knife with margarine, to check, feel knife.
2. Locate bread or toast.
3. 'Stroke' the bread or toast with the knife.
4. Check by touching, if the margarine is covering the toast.
5. When completed cut the toast in half.

The Microwave oven

1. Carry food / drink to microwave oven, position on right side.
2. Put food / drink into microwave oven.
3. Plug in. Switch on.
4. Set power level.
5. Set timer.
6. Remove food / drink, put on right side (test if applicable).
7. Carry food / drink to work surface or table.
8. Switch off and unplug.

The Toaster

1. Carry the bread on plate to toaster.
2. Plug in and switch on.
3. Put bread into slot in toaster (remind pupils to support toaster with left hand, whilst pushing down lever on right side of toaster).
4. Switch off and unplug.
5. Remove bread from toaster, holding one corner of the toast between finger and thumb.

Sharp knives

1. Knives must be kept really well sharpened.
2. Knives should always be stored in an appropriate place, eg; a knife block.
3. Carrying knives - ensure the pointed end is pointing towards the floor.
4. Handling knives - ensure that knives being passed from one person to another are held by the blunt edge and handed over with the handle pointing towards the receiver.
5. Use of knives by pupils - assessment will take place in Home Economics and information will be forwarded to other staff involved in food preparation with pupils.
6. All pupils using sharp knives should, ideally, be supervised by a member of staff, however capable they are, unless they are in the Independence flat.
7. When the pupil is carrying out the cutting or chopping task, it is essential that the member of staff stops what they are doing to observe this.

Cleaning: Sharp knives as with other sharp implements should be put in a specific place for cleaning, eg; on a shelf near to the washing up area. Do not stack dirty knives with all the other utensils. Clean with hot, soapy water using a washing-up brush to clean the blade.

Chopper or autochop

Choppers are obviously a safer alternative to sharp knives and should be used by some pupils, particularly those with manual dexterity problems or additional support needs. Although they are not as sharp as knives they should be treated in much the same way, so that pupils realise that they can be cut if they rub their fingers along the blade.

Cleaning: The chopper should be put in a specific place for cleaning, as above. Dismantle the chopper into 3 parts: a) blade and handle; b) blade holder; c) outer casing. Clean all parts in hot, soapy water, ensuring that the blade and handle part is held carefully by the handle and a washing-up brush only used to clean the blades.


1. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for your particular model.
2. Do not pour boiling liquid, eg; soup, into the goblet. Always leave to cool before liquidising.
3. Never fill the goblet more than half full.
4. Make sure the goblet is properlly placed onto the motor unit before use.
5. Make sure that the lid is properly fitted onto the goblet before use.
6. As an extra precaution, when you switch on the liquidiser, keep your hand firmly on top of the lid.
7. Run motor unit for no more than 15 seconds at a time, so that the motor does not overheat.
8. When you have finished liquidising (before removing contents) switch off and unplug.

Cleaning: The liquidiser should be put in a specific place for cleaning. Goblet: Clean with hot, soapy water ensuring that the blades are washed with a washing-up brush only. Motor unit: Wipe only when switched off, with a damp cloth, and dry thoroughly.

Food processor

1. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for your particular model.
2. Make sure that the food processor is properly assembled for the task you are carrying out.
3. Add food to the goblet either when the lid is removed or through the feed tube or funnel.
4. Never push your fingers down the feed tube or funnel, always use the pusher.
5. Never overfill the goblet, that is, never fill more than half full.
6. Always switch off and unplug when changing the blade and discs and when you have finished using.
7. Only handle the blade by holding the top of it.

Cleaning: Goblet, lid and pusher; clean carefully with hot, soapy water. Discs; clean with washing-up brush. Blade; the blade should be put in a specific place for cleaning. Hold the top of the blade only and clean carefully with a washing-up brish. Dab dry, making sure the tea towel is folded double and remembering to hold the top of the blade only. Motor unit; wipe only when switched off, with a damp cloth and dry thoroughly.

Filling kettles

Safety point: it is essential that pupils ensure that the plug or basin / washing-up bowl are not in the sink, and that the sink has no trace of water in it.

The basic shape of kettle will dictate how and where it can be filled from.

For example:
1. The cordless kettle with its long, wide spout and be placed on a dry draining board and the spout can then be lined up with the moveable tap head. If the tap head is fixed, the spout of the kettle can be held under the tap head. The water can then be put into the kettle but should be turned off every so often to check by weight the quantity of water in the kettle.

2. The jug kettle, generally because of its height and small spout really needs to be placed in a well drained sink with its lid removed. The moveable tap head can then be lined up over the top of the jug or if the tap head is fixed, hold the open jug underneath it. The water can then be put into the kettle but should be turned off every so often to check by weight the quantity of water in the kettle.

Safety point: make sure that the kettle used is completely dry before plugging in and switching on.

Pouring boiling water

Safety point: when a pupil is pouring boiling water from a kettle for the first few times, make sure that the kettle and mug are on a tray.

1. Place liquid level indicator onto mug.
2. Line up kettle by feeling the underside of the spout. (Ideally a long spout, as on the cordless kettle, is the easiest to line up and possibly pour from.)
3. Keep the edge of the spout steady on the side of the mug, supporting the mug by its handle with your other hand.
4. Pour the boiling water until the liquid level indicator bleeps intermittently. Stop pouring.
5. Add milk to the mug until the liquid level indicator bleeps continuously. Stop pouring.