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What are Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)?

An activity of daily living – also known as an ADL – is a primary occupation an individual needs to perform every day. Both kids and adults need to engage in ADLs in order to function within their environment. Read more here. 



As an occupational therapist, we evaluate a person’s level of independence in performing activities of daily living including dressing, eating, bathing, toileting, grooming, sleep/wake cycles, organizational and planning skills, moving safely and effectively through the environment, and functional mobility.

Believe it or not, these tasks can be very complex for our kids to learn. It is important to understand how their skill level may be effecting their independence and participation in such tasks…here are some questions to ask to help you think about how your child might be engaging in these tasks.


What are the primary ADLs for our kids?


Can your child tolerate wearing clothes all day? Is there resistance to getting dressed in the morning? Do certain materials or tags seem to bother your child? Can your child identify front from back on the clothes? Does your child understand the order/sequence clothes go on? Can your child figure out how to get dressed? If you want some strategies to help your child get dressed, check out our post HERE.


Is your child getting enough nutrition for his/her body? Does your child eat a variety of foods from different food groups? Does your child eat a variety of colors, flavors, textures? Can your child use utensils? Learn more about the developmental milestones for feeding HERE.


Can your child tolerate bath time or is it constantly a battle? Does your child know the sequence to clean themselves? Is your child able to clean themselves fully? If your child safe getting in and out of bath/shower?


Can your child understand when they have the urge to use the restroom? Can your child transfer on and off the toilet? Is your child able to wipe themselves completely? Click HERE for a free visual aide to help your kids with toileting sequence. 



How are hair cuts and nail clipping? Will your child allow his/her hair to be brushed? For our older kids, can he/she able to style his/her hair?


Sleep/Wake cycles:

Is your child sleeping through the night? Does it take a long time to settle down or fall asleep? Does your child seem rested when he/she gets up in the morning?


Moving safely and effectively through the environment:

Does your child often fall or trip? Does your child often bump into things or other people? Do you notice that your child often leans against walls? Does your child seem like they are looking around and aware of the environment? Check out our post about sensory processing to learn more about how our sensory systems directly effect our safety HERE. 


Functional mobility:

Is your child able to climb on/off chairs, couches, and other household items? If your child able to safely get in and out of the car? How does your child do at the playground?


It is important to remember, that these tasks might seem simple for us, but for our kids these tasks can be complicated and even frustrating. So next time you are getting dressed or getting ready for work, take a minute to think about how many steps and processes your brain and body has to go through to complete each task. If your child is struggling with some of these basic daily life skills, take a step back, put on your detective hat and see if you can figure out where the breakdown is. Remember, our kids brains are still learning all of these processes and it is our job to support them to reach their potential.

And of course, if your child is still struggling and you are concerned, please know we are always here to help! 


We hope you found this post helpful. Click HERE to learn more about what services and supports South Shore Therapies has to offer. Results that make a difference.


Have a question for us or topic you want to learn more about? Send us an email at 


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