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Teaching autistic children Skills in Personal Hygiene

Updated: Jan 22

Most children find it difficult to maintain good hygiene practices. After all, you might be jumping in dirty puddles instead of spending time in the shower. Children with autism may have trouble learning hygiene-related skills, mostly because of the difficulties brought on by their diagnoses. Several factors can affect having healthy hygiene habits, including:

  • deficiencies in fine motor skills

  • difficulty managing one's time

  • difficulty doing a work that is not preferred (finding it challenging to focus on unpleasant activities)

  • difficulties with related executive functions (such as organization or self-reflection)

  • sensory problems

  • Issues with receptive language (such as not understanding what someone is saying to them, especially if the directions are complex)

  • difficulty carrying out multi-step tasks or following guidelines that have several steps

Personal Hygiene Skills Examples

Children should practice certain personal hygiene skills, for instance:

  • oral care, such as brushing teeth, gargling, and utilizing floss

  • taking a shower or bath and cleaning one's body

  • maintaining one's hair

  • cleaning your hands as needed

  • one's nose as necessary

  • Skincare (as suitable or needed for each child) (as appropriate or needed for each child)

  • Nail care (trimming and cleaning fingernails and toenails)

  • Managing periods (for females)

How to Assist Autistic Children in Developing Hygiene Skills

There are several behavioral science-based suggestions that can aid most kids in improving in this area. Make sure your youngster receives the recommendations we offer individually. For instance, some kids can follow verbal instructions delivered in step-by-step fashion better than others, who can't yet understand spoken instructions and might benefit more from visual cues.

Among many other skills that will help your child be more independent in life, you can also get in touch with Behavioral Innovations to get professional assistance to help your child acquire hygienic skills.

1. Create Daily Routines

Creating regular routines for kids is one of the most crucial things you can do to help them learn about personal hygiene. Children benefit from routines by knowing what to anticipate. Children improve at a particular skill by repeating an activity that is part of their daily routine.

When given several opportunities to practice a new ability and when it is expected of them on a daily basis, children with autism frequently learn new skills more quickly. On the other side, if kids aren't adhering to daily schedules and their caretakers only urge them to do a given activity sporadically or at random times, this might lead to confusion and tension in the kid.

Consider the precise skills you want your autistic child to work on and then decide when to schedule those activities in the child's day or week to assist them to improve their hygiene skills. For instance, you might require your child to brush their teeth at 8:30 a.m. after breakfast each morning.

2. Employ visual aids

Children with autism can benefit from visual assistance to learn new abilities and become more autonomous in their daily lives. More structure and direction are provided by visual aids, which aid in learning and task completion. They can lessen problematic behaviors, stress, and anxiety.

Photos or videos of someone executing a given activity, schedules or routines illustrated by pictures and/or written text, color-coded or other forms of organization systems, and much more are examples of visual provisions.

Making a morning routine chart that your child can follow, making a daily schedule that your child regularly looks at, and coming up with step-by-step instructions for hygiene skills (like tooth-brushing) that help your child complete the larger, more complex activity are a few ways to assist children with autism in developing personal hygiene skills while using visual supports.

3. Giving and Fading Requests

A cue is something that assists your youngster in carrying out a certain job or exhibiting a particular behavior. You may train your youngster to become more independent with a task or habit by using reminders properly and gradually fading them. You lessen the anxiety and frustration that come with learning anything new, and you improve your child's capacity to exhibit a certain skill or behavior on their own.

Prompts can be expressed verbally, as when you provide a directive, or nonverbally, like when you point at something you want your child to use (i.e., the toothpaste when working on independence with tooth-brushing). Physical prompts, like holding your child's hand while you walk along the sidewalk to prevent them from running into the street or in front of you, or visual ones, like the supports we previously described, can also be used.

To help your child to learn good personal hygiene habits, you can use a variety of stimuli. It is equally crucial to think about how you will gradually stop using prompts in addition to providing them. Being cognizant of how you will minimize your support for them to become more independent with the skills being addressed is important because some kids can become overly dependent.

Using prompts can help your child become more independent with their hygiene skills. Here are some examples:

Indicating the tools to use when cleaning your teeth (Gestural Prompt)

physically assisting a youngster to bathe or wash their body or hair (Physical Prompt)

NOTE: Keep privacy in mind, especially for older kids and teenagers. If necessary, you can still assist older kids in the shower or bathtub. And if a child's level of need necessitates this amount of monitoring, you should put their safety first by being present while they take a bath, regardless of their age. Offer them as much privacy as you can, but try to limit the number of people that assist them in the shower.

describing to a youngster the procedures necessary to carry out an action, such as changing a girl's period-related sanitary napkin (Verbal Prompt). You may also place a pad on a pair of underpants and remove it to show them how to change the pad (Model Prompt).

Cleaning Techniques and Autism

All kids can benefit from learning good personal hygiene practices. Many kids, especially those with autism, may find it difficult to develop these abilities. This is due to a variety of factors. Children, especially those with ASD, can, nonetheless, develop their capacity for self-care and cleanliness. You may help your child achieve this goal by establishing a daily routine together, providing visual supports, and using prompts intermittently.

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