A focus in many special education settings is self sufficiency and independence. Frequently we take time each day to teach what we call hygiene, grooming, self-care, or daily living activities. Our hope is to build skills that can be generalized to a home setting and carried into the future. I find so much value in this instruction because everyone can benefit from it, no matter where they are in the skill building process. We may be focusing on students tolerating the sensory overload that can go along with these routines. We may be focusing on following visual or verbal directions. We also may be focusing on prompt dependence. All of these various ways of looking at hygiene are useful and help the individual in their lifelong endeavors. No matter where you are starting, here are a few tips to help set your students and yourself up for success.

1.  Build it into your routine.

  1. Write grooming into your schedule every day. Make a time to address these goals and stick to it. I like to make it at a logical point in the day, like first thing in the morning or after PE. It may seem monotonous to instruct on the same skills every day, but if you think about the long term impact of self care skills, it is more than worth the time spent.

2. Organize your items.

I love a good bin/tub/container. I always get my bins at the Dollar Tree. Plastic containers abound a dollar discount stores. I particularly like my current containers because they have a handle and they are open to the air. Both toothbrushes and potentially washcloths get stinky fast when in a tub with a lid. Shower caddies work well too. I always label my bins for individual students with my handy dandy label maker.


3. Use as many visuals as necessary.

Often a combination of visuals will be necessary. I am very lucky that I have all readers in my class (first time ever), so I am able to knock out written visuals with ease and add pictures if it suits me. I like to keep a simple visual checklist for reminder sake. They have graduated from very detailed written checklists from years past.

I also love the outlined layout of this visual that is inspired by my OT. It helps students to organize their items and lay out what needs to be completed in their routine. *The circle by the cup is a size reference for how big their toothpaste amount should be. *

4. Track your students’ progress.

Data collection is 100% necessary when addressing hygiene skills because the task is done every day. We can overgeneralize the data if we base our reflections on observations. We can look for and track the minutiae of a verbal prompt versus a physical prompt with the correct data sheet and know that distinction of prompt level is huge. You must find the right data sheet or adjust one to fit your needs. I have taken the Hygiene Data sheet from Special Education Data Sheets available on TPT and I’ve added more skills. I kept it on the original page because of the great explanation of prompt hierarchy at the top and the prompt layout. *Pro tip: face wipes do the same job as a washcloth and soap and are so much easier for students to manage. Also, daily nail filing helps to avoid the terrible task of nail clipping. 

5. Celebrate success.

I love, love, love teaching high school for so many reasons, but a big one is that I feel like I’m at the finish line of a great race. A race to teach this individual the most important skills that they will carry with them their entire life. I see the incredible hard work that was put in by all the teachers along the way, from the PPCD teachers to elementary, and even middle school teachers. I can write goals that specify ZERO VERBAL PROMPTS and that is a realistic goal for the student to achieve. The success of that blows my mind.

One particular young lady in my class was able to achieve putting her hair in a ponytail for the first time last summer at ESY. We literally had ponytail party. When I think about how that positively impacts her each and every day for the rest of her life and how long that IEP objective was on her plan, I get choked up. She gained an independent skill that she will have forever. This is why it is worth continuing to address these skills day after day, year after year, and why it is essential that they be tracked with accurate data collection.

I hope that during this tough month for teachers, you are finding solace in data and community. Almost any problem can be solved with great data collection and analysis. Dig around on the blog to hear from several awesome teachers who want to equip you to have your best second semester ever. 

In case you haven’t heard it today: “you are appreciated and amazing”. Find me on Instagram @ausometeaching. 

Meredith Walling

Latest posts by Meredith Walling (see all)

Stay Informed

Sign up to receive our latest news and announcements

Pin It on Pinterest