A Journey to Life Skills

An Overview of Essential for Living

The mission of Essential for Living is to provide children and adults with moderate-to-severe disabilities, including but not limited to autism, a comprehensive life skills curriculum with social validity, along with evidence-based teaching and measurement strategies and procedures, that result in the dignity and quality of life these children and adults deserve

A Sample of the 3,000 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 Essential for Living APP

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

For access to the EFL APP: click here

For a free trial account:

The Essential Eight Skills
[Pillar One of EFL]

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

  • Making Requests [mands]
  • Waiting after making requests
  • Accepting Removals — Transitions, Sharing, and Taking Turns
  • Completing Required Tasks — Completing Previous Acquired Tasks when asked to do so
  • Accepting “No”
  • Following Directions related to Health and Safety
  • Completing Daily Living Skills related to Health and Safety
  • Tolerating Skills related to Health and Safety

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


Selecting an Alternative Method of Speaking
[Pillar Two of EFL]

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 of Essential for Living [EFL] describes and demonstrates a systematic set of procedures for selecting an alter-native, 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 displaying these repertoires on the Selection Diagram, a sheet of clear mylar included with the EFL handbook. This diagram is then used to compare 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’ for speakers than others, and some will result in a larger audience than others.  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 that is more likely to be effective. Four sample cases are provided in Chapter 6.

We have very recently become aware that with some copies of the mylar, the Selection Diagram has been ‘stretched horizontally’ so that it is no longer the same size as the diagrams in chapter 6 of EFL for each of the 46 alternative methods of speaking. As a result, these copies can no longer be used as part of of the selection process. However, the New AMS Selection Tool to the rescue!! This tool, which updates and replaces the AMS Comparison Tool,  permits users to bypass the Selection Diagram and, using the same procedures, quickly determine candidates for an alternative method of speaking for a non-verbal child or adult. This tool was developed by Hunter Williams and Eb Blakely. [ IF YOU WOULD LIKE A NEW COPY OF THE MYLAR, send a note requesting one, along with your mailing address, to ].

The following is a link to the AMS Selection Tool

Download the AMS Selection Tool and open the file. As you can see, this tool was developed using EXCEL and the product is an EXCEL file. This file, however, is not supported on an iPad or an iPhone.

If you see a box that asks about macros, you will need to select ‘enable macros’ to use this tool. If you see a box that is entitled Visual Basic for Applications, select END (if the same box appears a second time, select END again). Then, select  the HELP boxes for instructions on using the AMS Selection Tool. You can highlight any of the methods that were selected with a color of your choice. You can also print the page when you are finished or save it with a learner’s initials for future reference.


The Speaker Initiative

Chapter 6 of Essential for Living [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, please send us their story []. With respect for their privacy, we will celebrate your and their achievement on this website.


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.

Come by and See Us at ABAI in Boston…

For the indefinite future… we will send contributions to the International Red Cross to support the people of Ukraine  as they ‘mand’ for the return of their freedom… please join us in this effort

Miguel Avila and his team are working on
Spanish translation of Essential for Living
which should be available this summer…

for more information…
Interested in a free trial account of the EFL APP:

Essential for Living Workshops
and Q & A Sessions

Learning to Use EFL: An Online Workshop…  98.00

Live workshops will continue to be conducted by Patrick McGreevy and Troy Fry, will now also be recorded for on-demand viewing, and will now be managed by Behavior Live. Participants can earn 2 Standard and 2 Ethics BACB CEUs [with no additional charge]  An EFL handbook, along with a downloaded and printed copy of the EFL User Guide
are strongly encouraged —

The next workshops and links are:

June 7, 2022: 12:00-4:00 New York time…

June 22, 2022: 12:00-4:00 New York time…

One-hour EFL Online Q & A Session…………….  free

May 20, 2022: 12:00-1:00 New York time…

May 24, 2022: 12:00-1:00 New York time…