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10 min · Education
February 8, 2021

Personal Hygiene for Kids

Children need to keep themselves clean. This cleanliness becomes important when it comes to being and remaining healthy, and feeling good about themselves.

Hygiene is not only important for health reasons. Good personal hygiene for kids will also increase your child’s self-esteem and confidence.

What is Hygiene for Kids?

Personal hygiene is the way we care for our bodies. It includes many activities, such as washing hands, brushing teeth, and bathing. For kids, good personal hygiene will help them stay healthy. Well-kept hygiene will prevent illnesses and help build your child’s self-awareness.

We come in contact with millions of germs every day and have to keep ourselves clean to not get sick.

Adopting good hygiene habits is more than just washing hands. In addition, teaching the kids the importance of having a healthy hygiene routine early on enables them to stick to this routine throughout their lives into adulthood.

For children, there are some basics for good personal hygiene practices and the following are some of them.

Washing hands: Washing hands is an important practice to ward off germs, which has been under the spotlight as one of the best methods today to prevent the spread of germs and viruses, especially during the pandemic. Hand hygiene for kids is crucial as most germs are contracted and spread through hand contact.

Bathing and showering: People need regular baths or showers. Children should be encouraged to adopt this practice early on. This can be introduced to their end-of-day routine or bedtime routine.

In the beginning, you will be giving baths to your child until they can handle this task on their own. While bathing your child, you can teach them which body parts to wash when they are taking a bath, such as a neck, armpits, groin, belly, back, feet, and knees.

This would be a great time to also teach them how to wash their hair without getting soap or shampoo in their eyes. In the event that they do, explain to them how to handle this situation.

Nail Hygiene: Nails are just as important because dirt can collect under them. The parents and caregivers cut the nails of their child before the age they can care for their own nails.

Brushing and flossing teeth: Dental hygiene and care for kids are important. The moment they start teething, the care should begin. The teeth and gums should be kept clean to prevent any infection and cavities.

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Why is Oral Hygiene Important for Autistic Children?

There are many coexisting conditions for children with autism. Usually, autistic children are over-or under-sensitive to certain stimuli. That is why oral hygiene can be difficult to maintain for children with autism, leading to many dental problems.

Oral hygiene is important to everyone. However, the behaviors exhibited by children with autism and the symptoms caused by the coexisting conditions, it may be difficult to keep a good oral hygiene routine.

Having autism does not mean that the child will have different teeth or facial features. However, it was found that children with autism are likely to develop oral health problems.

Children with autism have dental and oral health problems due to many reasons. In addition to medications used to treat other conditions and poor food choices due to sensory problems, difficult behaviors such as head banging, chewing on harmful objects also contribute to dental and oral problems.

A study conducted in South Africa with autistic children found that most children had cavities in their permanent teeth. The percentage of children with cavities was found to be higher than the national average. The fact that both the permanent and primary teeth decayed means that autistic children’s dental needs are not being met.

Unfortunately, many children with special needs have poorer oral health compared to neurotypical children. These children face various barriers resulting from their condition that make it difficult for them to receive adequate dental help.

Children with autism spectrum disorder generally have sensory hyper- or hypo-sensitivity. Due to this behavior, they exhibit non-cooperative behavior in the dental office. This causes children with autism to not receive proper oral care.

Autistic children have difficulty in understanding the concept of maintaining good oral hygiene. When it comes to putting it to practice, they struggle. Since they cannot brush their teeth effectively due to such problems, oral hygiene for kids with autism becomes a serious problem.

oral hygiene for asd

The importance of oral hygiene for children with autism is widely discussed. Poor oral hygiene is one of the risk factors for autistic children. It is difficult to maintain oral hygiene in autistic children because they generally do not tolerate toothbrush being in their mouth as they have difficulty processing the input.

Children with autism may give strong reactions to touch. This makes it difficult to penetrate the oral cavity by the dental professionals. The reactio n causes the process to be slow and difficult, requiring a lot of patience and time.

There are a few studies done on oral hygiene for autistic children. One goes into the difficulties faced when improving oral hygiene for kids with special needs . Some examine the change in the oral hygiene status in the long term.

How to Teach Hygiene to Special Needs Children

Teaching personal hygiene to children with special needs may be tough. However, it is highly significant that children learn and acquire these skills and good habits early on to have an independent life.

Children with autism spectrum disorder and other special needs may struggle to develop healthy hygiene activities. Health and hygiene for kids are crucial, so it may harm them, in the long run, to not develop a regiment of personal hygiene.

Special needs children may not have the necessary skill set to complete personal hygiene activities. They may be sensitive to the stimuli that are associated with the task, such as putting a toothbrush in their mouth. In addition, physical limitations like behavior problems also contribute to making learning personal hygiene a difficult process for children with special needs.

Teaching kids about hygiene, especially those with special needs , don’t always go as linearly as teaching a neurotypical child. Children with special needs like autistic children may not respond to natural reinforcement others receive from engaging in self-care skills. This may be feeling clean after taking a shower or comfortable when you wear clean clothes. There is also the fact that they may not be aware of the social consequences that come with not having good hygiene.

There are methods developed by teachers and special needs therapists to help your child acquire hygiene skills. Although these are used by professionals, parents and caregivers can also use them to teach their children with special needs to develop a healthy hygiene routine early in their lives.

Here are some personal hygiene tips that can help the child acquire a good hygiene routine in their daily lives:

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Task Analysis

Task analysis is a technique that is used to break tasks down into smaller, more manageable portions for the child. This technique is the first thing the parents and caregivers should implement and teach their children how to work on the task one step at a time.

Breaking each task down into smaller portions will help children learn how to accomplish them independently. This could also be beneficial when it comes to some troubling stimuli for the child, such as the texture or sounds.

For example, there are actually many steps to brushing teeth. The proper brush should be identified, toothpaste should be put on the toothbrush. Then comes brushing the bottom teeth, top teeth, mouth should be rinsed and the brush should be cleaned. Both the toothpaste and toothbrush are put in their places.

Using Visual Guides

Children with autism and special needs are more prone to grasping a concept with visual guides. Visual guides are used by parents, caregivers, and teachers to help the child understand the concept, remember, and be comfortable with the steps involved in the task. The visual guides can consist of photos, drawings or images depicting each step.

Prompt and Fade

In addition to teaching the task in a step-by-step manner, children with special needs may need reinforcement and prompts at first. They will need this help with remembering and completing each step in a given task.

Parents and caregivers can use the hand-over-hand technique at first to help them grasp the concept. Then, they will move to give only verbal prompts, like ”don’t forget to wash the top of your hand.” As the child learns, the prompts will start to ”fade.” When the child r equires no prompt , they have learned the task.

vocal hygiene for kids

Routines and Schedules

Children with autism respond very well to structures. They like knowing what will come next at a given time. It can be a good idea to create a schedule to be followed to stick to a routine and learn the tasks.

Creating a schedule will make it easy for the child to stick to it and this will, in turn, help the task become a part of their everyday activities. This schedule could be for the entire day, or created specifically for hygiene.

This schedule can include visuals so that the child can understand what is expected of them. Once they are done, you can check the schedule together to know what is done and what needs to be done to complete the entire hygiene routine.

Chaining

This is a widely used technique to teach skills to children with special needs. Every task consists of steps, meaning chains. We have broken down these tasks into chains before so they are much more manageable for the child. You can’t brush your teeth without getting the brush, putting toothpaste on it, etc.

Chaining is when the child is rewarded during the process in between steps with a sticker or a toy or even some special praise. These chains are then connected with these reinforcers. After a while, the child will gain independence. The parent or caregiver can then give a reinforcement after each task is completed. This could turn into giving rewards once the child has completed the entire hygiene routine, completing the chain.

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Role-Playing

This could especially be useful when it is time to pay a visit to the dentist. Parents and caregivers can practice this visit through role-playing.

This role-playing can give the child a sense of what to expect as they are less anxious when they know what will happen next. This practice can also help the parent understand what could be challenging for the child during the experience.

Through role-playing, the dentist visit can be turned into a game. The therapist or the parent can be the dentist and the child will be the patient. You can have the child lie on their back in a reclining chair or on the couch and tell them to open their mouth wide.

This will help them get a sense of what it will be like at the dentist. Also, you can talk to your child about how important it is to regularly go to the dentist and to maintain good oral hygiene during this practice.

Video Modelling

Many children with special needs are visual learners. Videos are great tools for teaching them a concept as they can learn very well through this medium.

Studies have proved the effectiveness of video modeling in teaching children with special needs. These resources can be found online and there are many.

In video modeling, a person does tasks so that the child can follow along. In addition, you can also make a video of your child doing the task to watch again and see if they have made any mistakes or anything can be improved.

teaching bathroom hygiene to kids with autism

Social Stories

Social stories are one of the most helpful tools in terms of teaching a skill or a task to a child with special needs. These are visual guides created specifically for the child and the task at hand.

Rather than listing simple steps, social stories utilize pictures and words that describe the behavior that is expected of the child. A social story can be created and read to the child until they learn it by heart and do not need the prompt to complete the hygiene activity.

Otsimo Special Education has introduced many social stories for the children with special needs to follow along. The child can learn how to wash their hands and brush their teeth through these social stories.

Don’t Forget the Fun

Teach the child that practicing good hygiene can be fun. There are songs about brushing teeth or some special bath toys that can turn the task into an enjoyable activity for the child.

Hygiene games for kids will turn the hygiene routine into something the child anticipates. In the process, provide social attention and reinforcements to the child so that they are rewarded while also having fun.

One of the hygiene games played is glitter hands. Most of the children only rinse their hands rather than properly washing them. Hands should be scrubbed for at least 20 seconds. Since glitter is naturally sticky, it will push the child to scrub their hands with soap for over 30 seconds.

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This article is examined by Clinical Child Psychologist and Ph. D. Researcher Kevser Çakmak, and produced by Otsimo Editorial Team.

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This post does not provide medical advice. See Additional Information.

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