Essential for Living: Start Me Up

A Comprehensive Functional, Life Skills

Curriculum, Assessment, Skill-tracking Instrument,
and Professional Practitioner’s Handbook

For an overview of Essential for Living, click here

EFL is designed for verbal and non-verbal children and adults with moderate-to-very severe disabilities, including autism, and limited skill repertoires. Many of these children have had intensive intervention, which was guided by a developmental curriculum like the ABLLS, the VB-MAPP, or the Early Start Denver Model, but have made very little progress. These children and adults can often learn to respond quite well in concrete situations, but may have considerable difficulty with abstract concepts. Non-verbal learners may also struggle to acquire an effective, alternative method of speaking.

EFL can be a bit overwhelming in the beginning, but so can teaching these children and adults. They need a comprehensive instrument that can meet their needs, improve their quality of life, and report their progress in small, but important increments. And, EFL is the only instrument of that can provide these outcomes.

With EFL, most of these children and adults can learn to function as speakers and can acquire a repertoire of speaking, listening, functional academic, social, daily living, and tolerating skills filled with meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. These repertoires may include…

  • ‘expressing preferences for specific items, activities, and people’
  • ‘making a request for a cookie (biscuit) or a cracker’
  • ‘tolerating a corner chair and a sidelyer’
  • ‘walking with an instructor or care provider when directed to do so’
  • ‘turning on the cold water before the hot’
  • ‘stopping and turning around when your name is called’
  • ‘walking past a knife without picking it up’
  • ‘making a request for ice cream with chocolate syrup’
  • ‘sharing and taking turns with preferred items and activities’
  • ‘following a picture schedule’
  • ‘tolerating changes in that schedule’
  • ‘retrieving an item when requested to do so’
  • ‘making a request for chips (crisps) from a peer’
  • ‘indicating that they do not understand what someone said’
  • ‘naming items and activities that are part of breakfast’
  • ‘answering questions related to breakfast, before, during, and after breakfast’
  • ‘retrieving items in the grocery store from a shopping list’
  • ‘asking a friend about the location of their red socks with the blue stripes’
  • ‘using a debit card to make a purchase’
  • ‘taking their own medication with a minder’
  • ‘answering questions related to many previous or upcoming events’
  • ‘reading words on signs, to do lists, shopping lists, or menus’
  • ‘describing a headache or stomach discomfort’
  • ‘texting brief messages’.

With the continued use of a developmental curriculum or extensions of the Common Core State Standards, these same children will likely be confined to a repertoire of repetitive activities without meaning or purpose, such as…

  • ‘pointing to shapes when asked to do so’
  • ‘matching identical pictures when asked to “match” ‘
  • ‘naming the letters of the alphabet’
  • ‘rote counting to 10’
  • ‘putting pegs in a pegboard’
  • ‘matching 6 o’clock on an analog clock to “6:00” ‘
  • ‘naming the days of the week’
  • ‘filling-in missing words or phrases’
  • ‘matching numerals to corresponding numbers of objects’
  • ‘sorting wooden blocks by color’
  • ‘singing “head, shoulders, knees, and toes”’
  • ‘tracing their name’
  • ‘answering questions they will never hear again with scripted, memorized responses’
  • ‘imitating movements that almost never occur in everyday living’

We value teaching these children and adults skill repertoires that are ‘essential for effective living’, repertoires that are effortless and fluent, repertoires that occur without problem behavior, repertoires that reduce the need for environmental supports or accommodations, and repertoires that occur across people and settings with only naturally-occurring consequences.

In other words, we value repertoires with empirical and social validity, that is, repertoires that provide small, but significant, measures of independence and fulfillment and repertoires that last a lifetime.

If you share these values…

Your New Functional, Life Skills Curriculum

and Practitioner Handbook


Patrick McGreevy (407-415-5241) or
Troy Fry (952-412-6206) or

Essential for Living (EFL) is based on an extensive body of research literature from special education, along with the concepts, principles, and empirically-validated procedures from Curriculum-based Assessment, Functional Life Skills Curricula, Direct Instruction, Applied Behavior Analysis, B. F. Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior, and Precision Teaching. EFL, however, requires no previous knowledge or experience with any of these concepts or applications.

Essential for Living can be used in conjunction with other curricula, including The VB-MAPP, PECS, The ABLLS-R, The Lovaas Curriculum, A Work in Progress, The Early Start Denver Model, The ACE Curriculum, The Murdoch Center Program Library, and The MOVE Curriculum. Essential for Living can be used by teachers, speech-language pathologists, behavior analysts, behavior specialists, curriculum coordinators, providers of residential and vocational services, and support coordinators, and will be especially helpful with children and adults with extremely limited skill repertoires, limited-to-no speaking skills, and severe problem behavior. For special educators who must respond to the Common Core State Standards, the language and functional academic skills of EFL are linked to these standards.

Here is A Brief Introductory Video describing EFL  click here.

To order the Essential for Living (EFL) Practitioner’s Handbook
and/or Learner Scoring manuals..
 click here.

Once you receive your copy of the EFL Handbook, here are resources that will help you get started…


1.  A Description of What to Expect from EFL and How to Get Started will appear on the page which faces page 1 of the EFL handbook.
If this page is blank… click here
You will also want to mark pages 28 and 29 of the EFL handbook; you will refer to these pages often.

2.  As you get started,  click here  for  The Revised and Expanded EFL
Introduction and User Guide

3.  And, here are five videos to guide you as you get started…

EFL A-I-A — A Brief Introduction to EFL
EFL Video GS — Getting Started with EFL
EFL Video I — What EFL is All About  
EFL Video II — Becoming Familiar with EFL 

EFL Video III — Conducting An Assessment of Skill Deficits and Tracking Learner Progress with EFL  
(This video will guide you through each step of using EFL)

to access these videos, click here

5.  As you begin to conduct your first assessment, here is a description of the Performance Levels used to record learner performance during skill assessments and subsequent learner progress click here.

5.  As you begin teaching, here are the Self-graphing Data Sheets that you might find useful click here.

6.  Here are Companion Teaching Manuals that you might also find useful click here.

To order the Essential for Living (EFL) Practitioner’s Handbook
and/or Learner Scoring manuals..
 click here.