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Book Review: Steps to Independence

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Book Review: Steps to Independence
Cover image courtesy of Brookes Publishing Co.

The Bottom Line

By Bruce L. Baker and Alan J. Brightman; 383 pages. From the cover: "Highly acclaimed and widely used, Steps to Independence boosts your children's self-esteem and maturity while helping them reach their full potential."

Showing kids how to do things for themselves is a nice idea, but it’s so much easier to just do it for them. This is a book that teaches parents how to teach their children well, with step-by-step instructions on how to help kids learn to do everything from shoe-tying to home repair.

About the Guide Rating

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  • Step-by-steps and scripts make teaching easy ... or easier, anyway.
  • Lists of skills help you see where your child needs help.
  • Can choose to start with small, attainable skills and work up.
  • Daily routines will eventually make things easier for parents.
  • Emphasis on success in small increments makes learning low-stress.


  • Requires a large degree of energy and involvement by parents.
  • Easy to get discouraged if your child doesn't respond.
  • Independence may not be a realistic goal for some children.
  • May make parents feel guilty if they're not pushing skill acquisition.


  • Chapter 1: Setting Out
    Chapter 2: Targeting a Skill
    Chapter 3: Establishing Steps
  • Chapter 4: Picking Rewards
    Chapter 5: Setting the Stage
    Chapter 6: Teaching
  • Chapter 7: Observing Progress and Troubleshooting
    Chapter 8: Get Ready Skills
  • Chapter 9: Self-Help Skills
    Chapter 10: Toilet Training
    Chapter 11: Play Skills
  • Chapter 12: Independent Living: Self-Care Skills
    Chapter 13: Independent Living: Home-Care Skills
  • Chapter 14: Independent Living: Information Skills
  • Chapter 15: Plugging into the Personal Computer Revolution
    Chapter 16: Behavior Problems
  • Chapter 17: Initiating a Behavior Management Program
    Appendix A: Get Ready Skills
  • Appendix B: Self-Help Skills Inventory
    Appendix C: Self-Help Skills Programs
  • Appendix D: Play Skills Programs
    Appendix E: Information Skills Programs

Guide Review - Book Review: Steps to Independence

When our challenged children are young, it’s natural to want to do things for them. Learning new skills is frustrating, finding ones at the right developmental level is tricky, the experience of failure is damaging, the advent of Velcro means shoes may never need to be tied ... there are an endless number of excuses for avoiding the hard work of teaching kids to do difficult things. Recognizing that kids can never have any degree of independence if parents don’t teach them to take care of themselves, “Steps to Independence” offers parents clear, thoughtful, step-by-step instructions for slowly, carefully, patiently showing kids the ropes.

Whether you’re more worried about good play skills or skills needed for independent living, you’ll find tools for assessing your child’s ability, lists of skills to work on, techniques for doing the teaching, and appropriate rewards and motivators. There’s good behavior management advice here, too, and rules for setting up daily routines. But the most useful instruction is how to teach skills backwards: Do everything for your child up to the final step, then let him or her complete the task at hand -- give shoelaces that last tightening tug, or throw away a used lightbulb after putting in a new one. Gradually, over days or weeks, you’ll add more and more steps until he or she is starting at the very beginning. It’s a great way to ensure that teaching sessions always end with success -- for your child, and for you.

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