Teaching children good hygiene habits such as brushing their teeth, bathing themselves, combing their hair, and using deodorant, is one of the many challenges parents everywhere deal with daily. These skills are vital for many health and social reasons. However, children on the autism spectrum may have trouble developing healthy hygiene habits because they might lack the necessary skills or are sensitive to the stimuli associated with these tasks. Physical limitations, behavior problems, and other factors may also make keeping up with personal hygiene more difficult. Here are some tips to help your child build healthy hygiene habits.
Break Down Each Task
One thing parents can do to help their children develop good hygiene habits is to teach them to work on these skills one step at a time. Breaking each task down into smaller steps helps children learn how to accomplish them independently. It can also help them tolerate potentially stressful stimuli such as sounds, smells, and textures. For example, if you are teaching your child to brush their teeth, you could break the task down into the following steps:
- identifying the correct toothbrush
- putting the toothpaste on the toothbrush
- brushing each of the four quadrants of the mouth
- rinsing the mouth and toothbrush
- putting the toothbrush and toothpaste away
It may also be helpful to create a social story that uses words, photos, or drawings to explain each step involved in brushing the teeth that your child can review before doing the task. Social stories may also help children master other grooming and self-care tasks.
In addition to teaching hygiene skills step-by-step, providing a positive reinforcer, or reward, for your child when they do a good job can be beneficial. The reward might be a sticker, a toy, special praise, or a favorite snack after dinner. First, you can provide these reinforcers in between each step. Then, as your child gains independence and more tolerance, you can deliver a reward after completing each task. Finally, you can reward them after completing the entire hygiene routine.
Create a Routine
It is also a good idea to create a routine around hygiene tasks. If you have a routine and stick to it, your child will always know what comes next, and the task will become a part of their everyday activities. Similarly, providing a visual schedule using pictures of each task may help your child acquire more independence. This allows them to know what is expected and see when they will be all done with their self-care tasks.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the field of behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.