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Five Tips for Building Good Hygiene at Home

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This blog was written by Dana Marsh, Board Certified Behavior Analyst at Your Life ABA in Petersburg, Virginia. 

Building good hygiene is very important for all children, but it may be more difficult to teach children with special needs. Here are five important strategies that families can use to help teach and reinforce implementing good hygiene in the home.  
1: Use a Visual 
While things like washing hands, taking showers or baths, putting on clean clothes, etc. can seem like simple feats – they are complex things that require several steps to be completed before they are done. By providing visual prompts or schedules, we can alleviate some of the stress that comes along with having to complete all those smaller tasks that are included in the bigger task.  

2: Provide Clear Instructions 
Individuals on the autism spectrum tend to be very literal. When it comes to building good hygiene practices, it is helpful to provide clear instructions. While “go wash your hands” may seem simple, it leaves a lot to the imagination for someone who may struggle with receptive language. So, what can you say instead to make sure that you’re providing the clearest instruction possible? Think where, what, and why. Instead of “go wash your hands,” try using more in depth/clear instructions such as “go into the bathroom and wash your hands with the hand soap so that they are clean.”  

3: Reinforce the Simple Things 
Let your child know they’ve done a great job with following your hygiene rules. Something as simple as “wow, great job washing your hands using warm water, that’s much better for you!” can provide your child with the thought that they are doing well with the task and that you’re proud of them.  

4: Model, Model, Model 
You are your child’s first teacher. The best way for them to learn expectations is by watching how you take care of yourself. Make it a point to wash your hands together, allow them to see you brushing your teeth, announce when and why you are going to shower by saying, “it’s time for me to go take a shower so I’m all clean before bed!” Modeling your expectations for your child will teach them how to do these things too. 

5: Make it Fun! 
Allow them to choose their favorite smelling soap, get the toothpaste with the fun character, pick the tissue box that is their favorite color, play music during a shower, and anything else that is going to make practicing good hygiene fun. This will allow the action itself to become reinforcing in and of itself, as opposed to needing outside reinforcement to complete the task.   

During cold and flu season, good hygiene is especially important. Use these tips to make establishing good hygiene practices in your home easy and stress-free! 

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