Tips For Teaching Personal Hygiene Independence

Tips For Teaching Personal Hygiene Independence

Erin Yilmaz
3 minute read



by Joanna Keating-Velasco, Author of "A is for Autism, F is for Friend"

Let’s Get Clean Routine

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:

  1.  Turn on water
  2.  Get soap
  3.  Make bubbles on hand
  4.  Rinse bubbles off
  5.  Turn off water
  6.  Get towel
  7.  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 
  • 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.

Tips For Teaching Personal Hygiene Independence

« Back to Blog