Management of personal hygiene is a very important skill for all children to learn in order to grow and develop independence.

Daily activities as part of a routine

As a teacher of children with autism, personal hygiene tasks are a high priority on the school daily timetable. Dedicating time to personal hygiene activities as part of a routine, every day, is a good method of ensuring the children have regular time to learn these important skills. These activities can include:

  • washing hands (before and after eating, after messy lessons)
  • getting dressed and undressed (for exercise or P.E.)
  • brushing teeth (after lunch)
  • washing face (after brushing teeth)
  • using the shower (after swimming)
  • washing under armpits and using deodorant (I have taught this as part of a lesson and then implemented time to wash under arms in the afternoon – (best taught in the summer when the weathers warmer if you live in the UK!!)

Model how to do it

Show the children how to do it – brush your teeth before and whilst the child is brushing their teeth to show how it is done. Wash your hands to show the child how to wash theirs. Always have a set of your own equipment ready to model! Children can learn a lot faster by seeing you do it.

Use visual support

Here is a visual lesson-starter I made for an introductory lesson on washing armpits and using deodorant. Each picture is a slide on ‘Powerpoint’.

personal hygiene social story autism spectrum teacher

I either modelled the steps (I modelled washing my armpits by wearing a vest and using a large bowl and flannel) or acted out (I definitely couldn’t model being in the bath!).  I then printed it and made it into a ‘Social Story’ book that the children could look at another time.

Visual supports to aid the structure of an activity can be very helpful for a child with autism; in understanding what is expected, in setting a routine and knowing when the activity has finished. Here is an example of visual structure for putting shoes and clothing on just before leaving home to go to school.

I know a child who currently uses the below resource independently (moving the symbol to the red side when he has completed the task). A few months ago, his parents were both physically helping him and having to verbally prompt him to do each of these steps. He has now learnt to do this independently and the whole process takes less time! Brilliant result!

 morning routine schedule asd teacher

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Steph Reed

Hi I’m Steph Reed, an Autism Specialist Teacher and Consultant. Following 10 years of teaching many incredible autistic young people with complex needs, I developed and led a School Autism Outreach Service, and have also been part of a senior leadership team as SENCo and Inclusion Leader. I now provide outreach, training and consultancy with practical support to schools, services and families using personalised, child-centered and evidence-based approaches. I also have personal experience of learning ‘differently’ and with success! I am here to support you in feeling confident and skilled in meeting diverse needs and ensuring children are reaching their potential.


Paula Gallay · December 30, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Thanks for the wonderful post on personal hygiene. A tricky topic that many parents need information and support with! I’m so glad I found your blog and look forward to reading more of your ideas about teaching ASD. Warm Regards, Paula Gallay, speech language pathologist, and mom of a young adult with ASD

Neil · October 1, 2018 at 12:27 am

I’m a new teacher in an ASD unit and I’m finding it difficult doing a visual schedule for a boy in my classII
Where do i begin?? Where do i get the little images?

Steph Reed · October 1, 2018 at 10:25 pm

Hey Neil.

I just found some toilet visual schedule resources on this page http://do2learn.com/picturecards/printcards/selfhelp_toileting.htm hope that helps!

Steph Reed · October 1, 2018 at 10:27 pm

hang on, you may not just mean toilet visual pictures! there are many more on http://do2learn.com/ otherwise I would highly recommend your school purchase Inprint 3 so you can quickly make Widgit symbols

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