Generalization and Maintenance of Skills

Generalization and Maintenance of Skills

Teaching and re-teaching a skill, task or behaviour is one of the most frustrating part of being a special needs parent

Perhaps many parents know what it feels like to practice the sight words or count numbers with your child only to find that he/she has forgotten the words you know they learned. It is really tiring for a parent to feel like the progress that was achieved has been lost.

Imagine you have been practicing sight words, working on counting objects up to the number 20 or writing with your child for days and when the same words were presented to him/her in a different arrangement or setting, she/he cannot read, count or write.

This is because you do not include “Maintenance and Generalization” in your teaching.

What is Generalization?

A child’s ability to demonstrate a task/skill, complete an activity, or engage in a behavior learned in one setting (e.g. home) and apply it with different people, objects, places and at different times. …

When a child with special needs learns to read letters on a board or flashcards, the child may not automatically transfer that skill and identify those letters in a book or on a label outside his learning environment.

However, varying your teaching enables the child to utterly understand a skill, task, variety of objects, spoken word, written word, colors, shapes etc.) across a variety of people, places, and materials.


  1. instructions (e.g. “come sit”, “sit down”, “take a seat”)
  2. materials – (e.g. shoes with lace, buckle, sandals, Velcro)
  3. Objects – (e.g. different ball shapes and sizes)

What is Maintenance

It is your ability to continue practicing a skill, task, or behavior that the child has already learned to retain the skill.


A child may learn to read or count but if the child does not practice regularly, he/she may forget.


How do you teach your child?

Have you made generalization and maintenance you teaching goals?