Management of personal hygiene is a very important skill for all children to learn in order to grow and develop independence.
Daily activities as part of a routine
As a teacher of children with autism, personal hygiene tasks are a high priority on the school daily timetable. Dedicating time to personal hygiene activities as part of a routine, every day, is a good method of ensuring the children have regular time to learn these important skills. These activities can include:
- washing hands (before and after eating, after messy lessons)
- getting dressed and undressed (for exercise or P.E.)
- brushing teeth (after lunch)
- washing face (after brushing teeth)
- using the shower (after swimming)
- washing under armpits and using deodorant (I have taught this as part of a lesson and then implemented time to wash under arms in the afternoon – (best taught in the summer when the weathers warmer if you live in the UK!!)
Model how to do it
Show the children how to do it – brush your teeth before and whilst the child is brushing their teeth to show how it is done. Wash your hands to show the child how to wash theirs. Always have a set of your own equipment ready to model! Children can learn a lot faster by seeing you do it.
Use visual support
Here is a visual lesson-starter I made for an introductory lesson on washing armpits and using deodorant. Each picture is a slide on ‘Powerpoint’.
I either modelled the steps (I modelled washing my armpits by wearing a vest and using a large bowl and flannel) or acted out (I definitely couldn’t model being in the bath!). I then printed it and made it into a ‘Social Story’ book that the children could look at another time.
You can download the powerpoint ‘I need to keep my body clean’ story for free > here.
Visual supports to aid the structure of an activity can be very helpful for a child with autism; in understanding what is expected, in setting a routine and knowing when the activity has finished. Here is an example of visual structure for putting shoes and clothing on just before leaving home to go to school.
I know a child who currently uses this independently (moving the symbol to the red side when he has completed the task). A few months ago, his parents were both physically helping him and having to verbally prompt him to do each of these steps. He has now learnt to do this independently and the whole process takes less time! Brilliant result!
Do feel free to share any strategies and resources you use that work well!