A Journey to Life Skills

An Overview of Essential for Living [EFL]

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

EFL Translations

Essential for Living is also available in Italian; currently you can order it from this website; it will soon be available in Simplified (Mandarin) Chinese and Spanish.

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:

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. 


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:

  • 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:


How to Order EFL

You can order Essential for Living from this website or from one of our distributors:

Different Roads to Learning

BALC (formerly Behavior Development Solutions)

Talking Autism (for orders from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa)


How to Get Started

The Essential for Living Professional Practitioner’s Handbook can seem a bit overwhelming at first. But, the following information can help you 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.

A Group of Adults in Italy
and A Quality of Life Experience:

Please join us in contributing to the International Red Cross to support the people of Ukraine as they ‘mand’ for the return of their freedom…

The Spanish translation of Essential for Living
will be available in our store in about 3 weeks!! 

for more information…

For a free trial account of the EFL APP:

Learning to Use EFL: An Online Workshop…  98.00

Live and ON-DEMAND workshops will continue to be provided by Patrick McGreevy and Troy Fry 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 and the EFL Teaching Manual…  along with a downloaded and printed copy
of the EFL User Guide are strongly encouraged…
The next live workshop will be announced soon…
ON-DEMAND workshops are now available…
We recommend attending one of these live or on-demand workshops and then coming to ‘one or more’ of our free one-hour online Q and A sessions…

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

The next Q and A sessions will be Oct. 19, 25, and 31