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Personal Hygiene Whether your child is a toddler or an adult, there is always room to focus on personal hygiene. For many, taking care of one’s personal needs can be challenging and/or seen as unnecessary by the individual. It’s up to us to help them understand why proper hygiene is important while giving them the skills they need to guide them towards grooming independence.

When is a Good Time to Start?
NOW! If your child is a toddler, start with baby steps of hand-over-hand techniques or let them do it themselves and you come behind and finish the job. For example, with brushing the teeth, it’s great if they will try to do the job by themselves and then you say, “Let me help you finish.”

Hand Washing
Hand washing is a great place to begin. Having a visual schedule breaking the task down into baby steps might be helpful including the following:

  • Turn on water
  • Get soap
  • Make bubbles on hand
  • Rinse bubbles off
  • Turn off water
  • Get towel
  • Dry hands

Initially, you might not see much progress and you might be doing hand-over-hand. Gradually, remove your help in different areas and view the progress. Let your child do it all by himself and you might be surprised by the progress. Begin to back yourself out of the process.

Teaching Other Self Help Skills
As your child becomes comfortable with basic tasks, you can create a visual schedule (using home photos or google images) of each task. I work with adult transition students with severe challenges. We do grooming daily using a visual schedule including:

  • Wash hands,
  • Brush teeth,
  • Put on deodorant,
  • Brush hair and
  • Wash face.

At some point in these students’ lives, each of these tasks was a mountain for their parents and teachers to climb. Now that these students are older, they do each task with little or no prompting. This is a huge leap so I wanted you to see how much the baby steps in younger days really pay off. Many of our students now shave their faces and trim their own nails. One student even uses mouth wash and cologne. They have been taught the importance of grooming throughout their lifetime and it has paid off.

On the other side of this topic, I have many students at age 21, who have never given themselves a bath or washed their own hair. Perhaps they will always need assistance in these areas, but to not give them the “tools” they will need to attempt these tasks on their own, I believe, is a disservice to them. This does not include individuals who are physically unable to attempt the task.

Many areas – such as teeth brushing and potty training – can be challenging. There are many resources to help parents navigate these areas. Know that you are NOT alone in this journey and that each baby step you take to help your child learn personal hygiene skills will lead to their future success.