A Journey to Life Skills

An Overview of Essential for Living [EFL]

The mission of Essential for Living [EFL] is to provide children and adults with moderate-to-severe disabilities, including but not limited to autism, a comprehensive curriculum referenced to ‘quality of life’, rather than typical development or academic standards, along with evidence-based teaching ‘and measurement‘ strategies and procedures, that result in the dignity and quality of life these children and adults deserve. An overview of EFL is provided in several languages:


Ordering Essential for Living (EFL)

The Essential for Living Curriculum, Method of Speaking, Teaching, Data Collection, and Progress Monitoring materials include:

You can order these materials from our online store on this website or send a purchase order to

For delivery of the EFL Practitioner’s Handbook in Spanish to Latin America as a paper book, your order from our store will be re-directed to our trusted distributor in Colombia, who will take the order and deliver it to your location. The All Skills Learner Scoring Manual in Spanish as a paper book will be available for delivery to Latin America soon.

Orders for the Essential for Living handbook as an e-book in English and in Spanish, along with orders for The EFL APP in English (and soon in Spanish), and the AMS Selection Tool in English and soon in Spanish, will be redirected to our trusted partner, Data Makes the Difference.


You can also order Essential for Living [EFL] and Esenciales para la Vida [EPV] as paper books from Different Roads to Learning

You can also order Essential for Living in English [EFL] as a paper book from BALC (formerly Behavior Development Solutions)

If you are from Canada, you can also order Essential for Living in English [EFL] as a paper book from Caversham Booksellers

If you are from the UK, Europe, the Middle East, India, or Africa, you can order Essential for Living in English [EFL] as a paper book from Talking Autism

The Essential for Living Practitioner’s Handbook [EFL] and the All Skills Learner Scoring Manual [ARP] will be available in Italian (the 2nd. printing) and Simplified (Mandarin) Chinese soon. Plans are currently underway for making these resources available in Arabic and Hebrew.


Will I Need Training
to Begin Using Essential for Living?

If you are new to Essential for Living, we suggest going to our YouTube Channel, which  contains several introductory videos which can be accessed by clicking here. 

Many people begin using Essential for Living without any formal training at all. They read the first four chapters of the handbook and, referring to pages 28, 29, and 39, begin conducting their first Quick Assessment of skill deficits.

Others use the Essential for Living Introduction and User Guide click here

Still others use EFL Video III: Conducting An Assessment Skill Deficits and Tracking Learner Progress with Essential for Living click here.

If you prefer to participate in one of our in-person or online training options, the following options are available…


The EFL Essential Eight
[and Necessary Nine) Skills

Many children and adults with moderate-to-severe disabilities and limited skill repertoires experience deficits in the Essential Eight Skills:

These skills are also known as ‘the must-have skills’ and are some of the first skills addressed in Essential for Living.

Recently, in our Teaching Manual, we acknowledged that leisure skills should have been considered ‘must-have skills’ and added to the ‘Essential Eight’, make this group of skills the ‘Necessary Nine’:


 Selecting an Alternative
Method of  Speaking

Many children and adults with moderate-to-severe disabilities and limited skill repertoires are not able to communicate effectively with ‘spoken words’ and require an alternative method of speaking (AMS).

Chapter 6 in the Essential for Living Practitioner’s Handbook [EFL] describes and demonstrates a systematic set of procedures for individualizing the selection of an alternative, primary method of speaking [AMS] for a non-verbal child or adult.  These procedures begin by designating the learner’s sensory, skill, and behavioral repertoires and then comparing these repertoires with those that tend to occur when each of 46 alternative methods of speaking is effective. In other words, a learner is ‘matched’ with methods of speaking that are often effective with learners with similar repertoires. Approximately 10-12 methods of speaking will have more repertoire matches and will emerge as candidates for an alternative method of speaking. Of these methods, some will retain more of the advantages of ‘spoken words’ than others, and some will suggest the importance of a large, often unfamiliar audience, while others will suggest a small, familiar one. Then, the relative importance of each of these three factors for a specific child or adult can be considered by instructional or treatment teams and used to select an alternative primary method of speaking for that learner. Then, procedures are described to determine the extent to which the method selected is effective and likely to last a lifetime. Four sample cases are provided in Chapter 6.

Alternative Method of Speaking (AMS) Selection Tool’

A new ‘AMS Selection Tool has been developed by Data Makes the Difference, the developers and distributors of the VB-MAPP APP and the EFL APP. This APP can be downloaded ‘free of charge’:


The Speaker Initiative

Chapter 6 of the Essential for Living Practitioner’s Handbook [EFL] is dedicated to making certain that as many individuals with moderate-to-severe disabilities as possible become effective speakers and remain so for their entire lifetime. If you are working with a child or an adult who currently does not have an effective method of speaking, and you are able to select a method for them that becomes effective, send us their story With respect for their privacy, we will celebrate your and their achievement on this website. 


A Sample of the 3,100 Skills in EFL

Essential for Living is composed of 3,000 functional skills. The first three domains contain 1,900 Speaking and Listening Skills. The remaining four domains contain 1,100 Daily Living, Leisure, Vocational, Functional Academic, Tolerating, and Component Skills.

The following is a sample of these skills: click here


The Scope and Sequence of EFL

The scope and sequence of Essential for Living are described in this document:


What to Expect and How to Get Started

The page that faces page one of the Essential for Living Practitioner’s Handbook contains the following information regarding ‘what to expect’ from this instrument and ‘how to get started’.


The EFL Introduction and User Guide

An Introduction to Essential for Living, which also serves as a User Guide, is available in:

This document also includes the scoring grid for the EFL Quick Assessment, permitting new users to complete their first Quick Assessment prior to purchasing scoring manuals or subscriptions to the EFL APP.


The First Five Skills

We often suggest that new users begin with one child or adult and consider teaching these first five skills:


The Essential for Living APP

The Essential for Living web-based APP permits users to:

  • conduct an assessment,
  • record learner progress with respect to skills and problem behavior,
  • summarize the extent of that progress, and
  • prepare reports.

For access to the EFL APP: click here

For a free trial account, contact Liz Maher:

The new Alternative Method of Speaking (AMS) Selection Tool has been revised and is no longer part of the EFL APP. It will be offered as a separate APP ‘free of charge’. When this tool is available, it will be announced on this website.


Our Tribute to the Life of
Dr. Hank Pennypacker,
a passionate advocate of
standard measurement
and a natural science
of behavior…


The NEW AMS Selection Tool is now available
‘free of charge’
and can help you individualize the selection
of an alternative method of speaking
for non-verbal children and adults

NEW COURSE: 8-Hour Intro to EFL

Learn More & Free Samples!



The Spanish translation of
the EFL Practitioner’s Handbook
is available in our store
for delivery to North America & Europe

and for delivery to Latin America

    Workshops in SPANISH are now available… Miguel Avila will help you arrange an online or in-person event…ask him

For a free trial account of the EFL APP