Essential For Living: Expect to be Surprised and Enlightened

Dr. Patrick McGreevy, BCBA-D and Troy Fry, BCBA sitting with a woman sharing knowledge about Essential For Living.

Teaching functional life skills accurately and fluently to individuals with limited skill repertoires is a challenging yet vital mission. This is where “Essential for Living” (EFL), developed by Patrick McGreevy, PhD, BCBA-D, Troy Fry, MS, BCBA, and Colleen Cornwall, Ed.D., BCBA-D. EFL stands out as a comprehensive guide for educators and therapists working with children and adults, especially those with moderate-to-severe disabilities.

A Unique Approach to ABA Assessment and Curriculum

EFL distinguishes itself by encompassing over 3,100 functional life skills, backed by scientifically-validated assessment and teaching procedures. This approach is not just about teaching skills; it’s about measuring the quality and effectiveness of these skills and behaviors. The EFL Handbook and Teaching Manual are more than just instructional guides. As you review the EFL Handbook and Teaching Manual, expect to be surprised and enlightened by these skills, teaching procedures, and measurement strategies that B. F. Skinner, Ogden Lindsley, Jack Michael, and Mark Sundberg [along with Bea Barrett, Eric Haughton, Jim Johnston, Hank Pennypacker, Carl Binder, and others] have taught us:

Key Features of Essential for Living

Comprehensive Communication Assessment:

EFL includes a detailed chapter and an app, crafted by experienced speech-language pathologists, focusing on evaluating the need for alternative communication methods. This resource aids in selecting the most suitable communication approach, ensuring it’s effective, efficient, and sustainable.

Innovative Preference Assessment:

The EFL preference assessment is a game-changer. The EFL preference assessment is conducted and preferences are determined before the learner is taught to ‘make choices’, which many children and adults have difficulty learning to do. It determines preferences before teaching the concept of ‘making choices’, a skill often challenging for many learners. This method contrasts with typical assessments that overlook the need for explicit instruction in choice-making.

Effective Use of Prompts:

The only spoken-word prompts that are included in EFL are echoic prompts* used to teach requests [mands] and listener responses that involve retrieving and relocating familiar items;
in other situations, skills can be taught with demonstration prompts or physical guidance and without spoken-word prompts, which are often difficult to fade.

*for example, “cup” is prompted when a cup is seen, and “cup” is the correct vocalization to make to obtain the cup.

Practical Teaching Guides:

The EFL Teaching Manual includes guides on implementing some of the most effective ABA teaching procedures, emphasizing the transformation of one skill into another.

Progress Tracking and Fluency Building:

The EFL Handbook and Teaching Manual encourage recording incremental learner progress on self-graphing data sheets. This approach emphasizes not just skill acquisition but also fluency and generalization.

Innovative Skill Development:

EFL guides learners to ‘answer questions’ encountered in daily life by initially ‘making requests.’ The EFL Teaching Manual shows users how to implement one of the most effective teaching procedures from ABA, which we often refer to as ‘one skill becomes another’;

Focus on Functional Skills:

EFL offers the option to teach tool and component skills to fluency, thereby facilitating the acquisition and maintenance of functional, composite skills. Imagine learning the building blocks of a skill so that they can be later recombined into novel skills that you’ve never performed before but can now effortlessly do as natural circumstances arise.

Rethinking Measurement:

EFL moves away from the traditional ‘percent’ measure of skill acquisition. Even though ‘percent’ is commonly used as a measure of skill acquisition, it is not included in EFL for several reasons: it does not specify what the learner did or how long it took him to begin or complete doing it, all of which are important and necessary for achieving fluent performance. This shift is due to the need for more detailed information about what the learner did and the time taken to start and complete tasks, which are crucial for achieving fluent performance and performance that generalizes to other contexts and needs.

Conclusion: A Revolutionary Tool in ABA

“Essential for Living” is not just an ABA curriculum or assessment tool; it’s a revolutionary approach to teaching life skills. It’s designed for those who require a specialized approach, particularly children and adults with moderate-to-severe disabilities. With its unique features and comprehensive strategies, EFL stands as a testament to the innovation and dedication of experts like Patrick McGreevy in the field of ABA. Expect to be surprised and enlightened as you delve into the world of Essential for Living. If you’re interested in learning more about Essential For Living and implementing the curriculum, please reach out to or consider our course below.

The Essential for Living Curriculum and Teaching Procedures: An Introductory Course

This online course travels on-site with Dr. McGreevy and Troy Fry, BCBA as they deliver an 8.5 hour overview of how to utilize the EFL and it’s conception. Venture along with them as they visit Upstate Caring Partners (UCP), located in Utica, NY, USA. They observe the unique implementations of the tool occurring at UCP, talk to parents of children with moderate-to-severe disabilities, and tour the facility to help consult on unique cases utilizing the EFL.

A total of eight (8) BACB® Learning CEUs Available

Ready to start? It’s online, self-paced, and you can even watch on your phone (if you’re into that)! Learn more about the course and see samples below.

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What People Are Saying

We asked parents what was making a difference…

“He wants to be able to be part of society, part of community… and it’s just incredible because it makes his father and I feel confident that he is going to be able to have a productive life beyond us. I’m encouraged… and thank you, without this program we don’t know where we would be.” – Susan Callaghan, Parent

“And then all of a sudden, he started being able to wait, and he started being able to going to the doctor’s office…that’s whey they started talking about Essential For Living.”- Bobbi Rodgers, Parent

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About Dr. Patrick McGreevy, BCBA-D

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