Good personal hygiene is hugely important ,some autistic people may struggle with this. Poor hygiene can negatively impact your social life, employment prospects and can lead to social isolation. To better understand the difficulties of maintaining good personal hygiene, it is important to discuss the barriers and potential solutions.
Sensory difficulties may impact on the ability to maintain personal hygiene levels. Examples of these are; the feeling of a toothbrush, the sensation of water on the skin, the smell of products or using a hairbrush. However, these issues are individual to each person.
Transitioning from one task to the next without reminders or prompts may also be difficult. Because of this, simple tasks like moving from washing your hair to washing your body can be difficult.
Timing can also be an issue. For example, common timing issues can include not knowing the length of time you need to brush your teeth, not knowing how much time has passed and how to know when you have been in the shower for an appropriate amount of time.
Create a personal hygiene routine for yourself or family member that can be followed at specific times. These specific times can be; after waking up, before and after eating, before going to asleep, after using the bathroom.
Visual supports can be there to guide you or your family member to the next task. This can be in the form of pictures or words in the bathroom and bedroom. For example, a checklist of tasks for brushing your teeth at the bathroom sink can help with staying on track.
Modelling allows for the person with autism to see how they are expected to do a task before doing it themselves. This allows for the task involved to be broken into smaller steps. For example, if the person has never shaven their legs or their face before, this is something which can be shown by a parent, or sibling.
Checklists provide a greater level of privacy and independence as it allows for tasks to be completed without additional support. These lists can be either a list of the separate tasks involved within each task (floss teeth, brush teeth, rinse with mouthwash) or a whole process (brushing teeth routine). Checklists can also be adapted to meet different needs and levels of support and can be changed as support required decreases.
Hygiene kits allow for a greater level of independence. Each ‘Hygiene Kit’ can be made for a specific task and stored in the room where they will be used. For better organisation they can also be colour coded and labelled.
Tooth brushing kit: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, timer and checklist all inside.
Shower kit: shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and a loofa/face cloth.
Shaving kit: manual razor, electric razor, shaving foam, post shave balm for the face and a face cloth.
Feminine hygiene kit: tampons, sanitary pads, liners, pain killers and a hot water bottle.
General kit: cold sore cream, bonjela, plasters, nail clippers and paracetamol.