A Curriculum for Teaching Hygiene

There is a new book about teaching hygiene published this June 2009 called Hygiene and Related Behaviors for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum and Related Disorders. It is a structured curriculum that can be used with high functioning individuals. What I like about this book is it not only teaches how to have good hygiene but also why it’s necessary to have good hygiene. The social perspective taking piece is often missing when teaching hygiene skills to people on the spectrum. Skills need to be taught in a concrete manner with visual supports. This curriculum does just that.

Each chapter has the same four components to it: objectives (main focus of each chapter), lesson plans, activities for teaching the hygiene topic, and instructional materials and supports. The objectives listed at the beginning of each chapter could certainly be used for IPP goals. The lesson plans, which are 45 minutes each in length, provide a sequential list of activities to use during the lesson. Each activity is also given an estimated time for completion so the guesswork is taken out of lesson planning.

This book provides flexibility as well. It can be used with individuals or in groups ranging from 2 to 10 people. You can use this curriculum at home, school, or in a therapy session. Parents, educators, psychologists, OT’s, speech pathologists, or social workers can use this curriculum. The design of each lesson is consistent so there is built-in predictability which can help lessen anxiety for the participants. (Have a look at my last blog post about John Simpson and the need for predictability.)

I also like that the author, Kelly Mahler, recognizes the need for participants to have a basic foundation in perspective taking skills in order to be successful with this curriculum. These skills refer to the ability to recognize and understand one’s own thoughts and feelings and that others have thoughts and feelings different from one’s own. Understanding the impact of personal hygiene on others is critical in maintaining motivation to practice good hygiene on a daily basis. We all have our grubby days when we stay at home in our sweats with unwashed hair and no make-up; however, we’d think twice before going in to work that way. We wouldn’t want our colleagues talking about us negatively!

To build a perspective taking foundation, have a look at such books as Building Social Relationships by Scott Bellini, Think Social! and Thinking About You, Thinking About Me by Michelle G. Winner or Comic Strip Conversations by Carol Gray.

This is also one of the first hygiene curriculums I’ve sent that tackles picking of all kinds (nose, teeth, scab and pimples) and farting and burping (one of my daughter’s favorite topics to talk about when she’s at home). All of the hygiene topics are tackled in a fun and matter-of-fact way that kids will find interesting. Who wouldn’t enjoy completing the “Fun Farting and Burping Trivia”? I’ll be interested to hear some feedback about using this curriculum once programs start up again in the fall. I think it will be a real winner!

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