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 available in English and Spanish; you can order it from our website; it will soon be available in Italian (2nd. printing) and Simplified (Mandarin) Chinese.

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 3,100 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 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 EFL APP will soon include these new features: a free Quick Assessment and a free assessment designed to determine if your learner needs an alternative method of speaking and which methods closely match their current skill repertoire.


How to Order EFL

You can order Essential for Living from this website  or from one of the following distributors…

From Latin America, you can order Essentiales para la Vida from Diana Vergara M.S., Diversitad

From outside of Latin America, you can order Essentiales para la Vida from this website

You can also order Essential for Living and Esenciales para la Vida from Different Roads to Learning

You can also order Essential for Living from BALC (formerly Behavior Development Solutions)

If you are from Canada, you can also order Essential for Living from Caversham Booksellers

If you are from the UK, Europe, the Middle East, India, or Africa, you can order Essential for Living from Talking Autism


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.

We are rolling out the Spanish Translation
of Essential for Living…
You are invited to attend a series of events
that will describe this life-changing instrument


To pre-register for a complete workshop…

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 brave people of Ukraine as they ‘mand’ for the return of their freedom…

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

and is also available for delivery
to Latin America

Workshops in SPANISH will be available soon

For a free trial account of the EFL APP:
Additions to the APP are coming soon….

Weekly EFL Online Q and A Sessions
in English and Spanish [free]
Online On-Demand Workshops [98.00]

You can register on this website for One-hour Online Q and A Sessions
in English and Spanish for which there is NO CHARGE:
Online ON-DEMAND and occasional LIVE Four-hour Workshops will
continue to be provided by Patrick McGreevy and Troy Fry and will now
be managed by Behavior Live, for which there is a charge of 98.00.
Participants can earn 2 Standard and 2 Ethics BACB CEUs [with NO
ADDITIONAL CHARGE]. Participants should have an EFL handbook
and the EFL Teaching Manual
along with a downloaded and printed copy of the EFL User Guide
You can register on this website: