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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Hierarchy of Needs: Considering Basic Needs in Order to Promote Greater Learning and Development

It is important to consider a person’s basic needs, whether you are a parent taking care of a child or a therapist providing services to a client, or a teacher teaching a class of students. Everyone has a set of basic needs that must be successfully addressed before more advanced learning and development can take place.

The most common theory on the basic needs of human beings was developed by Abraham Maslow in 1943. Let’s review the basic needs that are important to not only surviving but also thriving in one’s life.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Below are the basic needs of all human beings.

Survival Needs

Survival needs, or physiological needs, are the most basic needs that anyone requires in order to survive. These include things like food, water, air, clothing, shelter, and sleep.

It can be very difficult to learn or develop new behaviors and skills without successful fulfillment of survival needs.

Safety Needs

Everyone needs to feel safe. Safety needs include how we need to feel secure in our surroundings. We want to be safe. We do not want to feel threatened by or experience violence or dangerous situations.

Safety needs are also about security. People, in their own way, need to feel secure with certain aspects of their lives, such as where they live or how secure they are with their job or whether they have financial stability.

People also need to feel emotionally secure. In relationships, people need to feel safe and secure with their partners.

Needs of Love and Belonging

People need to feel connected with others. This, of course, becomes more individualized depending on the person, but, overall, people want to feel like they belong. They want to feel included in certain things and accepted. People need to experience love and affection.

Esteem Needs

People also have a need to experience respect from others as well as self-respect. People need to have a certain level of self-esteem, self-confidence, recognition, and appreciation.

They need to experience self-determination in their lives.

Esteem needs are related to feeling accomplished and valued.


The need for self-actualization has to do with reaching one’s full potential. It is very difficult to work toward self-actualization when the other needs are not met in a satisfactory manner.

Self-actualization involves becoming one’s best self and living a life based on developing one’s skills and abilities. Self-actualization needs help us to move past just living day to day focused on eating, sleeping, remaining safe, and casually connecting with others. Self-actualization is when we work toward identifying greater meaning in our life, learning more advanced skills, and challenging ourselves to be the best version of ourselves that I can be (as well as being open to allowing others to challenge and teach us new things).

The Need to Consider Basic Needs

No matter who you are, you should explore how well your basic needs are being met and how you can improve your efforts at getting these needs met if needed.

If you are caring for someone else, either as a parent, teacher or therapist, be sure to consider the status of how well the child’s basic needs are being met. Help the child to fulfill their needs or to obtain the resources to fulfill their needs in whatever way you can.

When a child or adult’s basic needs are met, they are more able to learn new things and experience greater development.

Hierarchy of Needs: Considering Basic Needs in Order to Promote Greater Learning and Development

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2020). Hierarchy of Needs: Considering Basic Needs in Order to Promote Greater Learning and Development. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2020, from