Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Implementing Hygiene Routines at School

For many students with special needs, working on functional skills can be just as important, if not more important, than academic skills.  When I spoke with parents of my students, I often found that they were struggling with getting their child to complete hygiene routines independently at home. Many of my students' parents admitted that they completed most of these tasks for their child because either their child didn't know how to complete the routine, didn't want to complete it, or it was faster for the parents to just do it for their child. That is what inspired me to to add hygiene to our daily schedule back in my first year of teaching. I wanted to ease the workload of the parents at home and also wanted to encourage promoting independence for all of my student to the maximum extent possible.

Parent Permission
Over the years, what we referred to as "hygiene" on our schedule morphed and looked different based on my students' needs, but I always started out the school year by sending home a letter to parents to get permission. I listed out all of the routines we were going to be working on so parents were aware.  I offered to provide the materials or they could send in their own if they had preference on brands. In 10 years of doing hygiene in schools and the clinical setting, I never had any parents refrain from allowing their child to participate. However, I did have a few parents opt out of having their child use deodorant and a few parents who wanted to provide their own supplies.  You can get a copy of my letter to parents here.

Providing Hygiene Supplies
I worked in a school were 97% of students received free or reduced lunch.  Since I was already asking parents to provide school supplies and money for community field trips, I felt that I wanted to be the one to purchase hygiene supplies for my students.  You could definitely include hygiene supplies on your school supply list in the beginning of the year or request parents to send stuff in if you preferred that route. In order to provide hygiene supplies to all of my students, there were a few different routes I went down. I started out by asking my school nurse to see if there were any hygiene supplies available for my students. She had a bunch of random sample sized items and was able to give us deodorant, tooth brushes and tooth paste.  I also shopped at the Dollar Tree (one of my favorite stores for my classroom) and was able to get supplies on the cheap.  You can also look for grant opportunities.  I wrote a grant for supplies within my school district (you could also use donors choose). Since this is such a unique, but extremely important cause to request funding for, you have a good chance of getting it funded. Since hygiene supplies at the dollar tree are so cheap, we used the additional grant money to buy hygiene books and hygiene activities for our life skills room.

Here are some of the hygiene books we purchased:

Here are some of our life skills activities:

How to schedule hygiene into your day will vary from year to year or based on the set up of your classroom/school. When I started hygiene my first year of teaching, I had all of my students (I only had 4 at the time), brush their teeth after lunch.  As I got more students, I added more hygiene activities and had all the students complete them in the morning as a station in their schedule rotation.  Since we used a single stall bathroom down the hall from our classroom, I only sent 1-2 students at a time with one of my paraprofessionals, which was another reason this worked well as a station on our rotation.  If you have a bathroom in your classroom or one that is big enough for your entire class, you could all go together to complete your hygiene routine during a scheduled time of day.  At one point, I had a group of students who were already independent in their hygiene routines at home, so they did not complete this station at all, as I didn't want to take away from time in their day where they could be working on something more valuable to their development.

Hygiene Activities and Visuals
I loved creating visual directions for all of the hygiene routines I had my students complete.  Visuals helped my students understand what to do so much better than when we were modeling or verbally telling them what to do.  It also greatly reduced frustration and increased independence!  It is much less invasive for an adult to point to a picture than to use hand over hand prompting to teach a skill.  Since I had paraprofessionals running this station, these visuals also helped remind them to use visual prompts instead of verbally instructing our students.  I laminated all of the routines so that they wouldn't get ruined if they got wet.  I also put velcro on the backs of the routines as well as on the wall by the mirror in the bathroom so that students could post the routines up as they were completing them.  You can get visual directions for getting dressed, brushing teeth, washing face, putting on deodorant, putting on lotion, going to the bathroom, and washing hands on Teachers Pay Teachers here.

Do your students do hygiene at school?  What routines do they complete?  How do you schedule it into your day?  I love hearing how people set this up differently in their classrooms...we can all learn from each others great ideas!


  1. I've done dental hygiene with my students in past years and will start it up after winter break. It's so important for students to know how to care for their teeth. One year I had a dentist visit the class. He brought his huge model brush and teeth. KIds could put on a gown, mask, gloves, and goggles and use the giant tools. They loved it. I may include those items in my grant proposal.

    1. I love the idea of having a dentist come to your classroom!