Hand Washing

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Hand Washing

“Soap Opera”

Jackie is a 16 year old student at The Maryland School for the Blind who participates in the Residential Program during the school week. The Residential Program’s main goal is to increase proficiency with independent living skills.

This year, the Residential Program has increased the focus on “Hygiene Skills”.  Although Jackie has been working on hygiene skills since she began staying in the Residential Program, she has shown a notable improvement this year with a concentration on these skills.

Our monthly hygiene topics for this school year include: hand and nail care; using the toilet, encompassing use of public restrooms;  ear, nose and eye care; bathing and deodorant usage; feminine hygiene; shaving; dental care;  face care;  hair and cosmetics.  Each month begins with a staff training related to the specific area.  Staff members have been provided with a collection of resources that include curriculum check sheets, task analyses, strategies for implementation, and consideration for selection and use of materials. The residential staff and occupational therapists devote the rest of the month to creating a program that identifies the steps of the routine, the appropriate materials and the structure needed to ensure maximum independence is achieved.

Because Jackie has Autism, a hearing impairment, and a visual impairment, many factors need to be considered when designing “her” routines. They include:

  • Planning for communication surrounding the routines.
  • Increasing motivation to perform the routines.
  • Maximizing vision and enhancing visual efficiency.
  • Structuring the materials and routine for maximum independence.
  • Incorporating sensory preferences and attending to sensory sensitivities.
  • Planning for generalization of the routines.
  • Creating safe practices and environments.

In the area of “hand washing”  the goal was to make it interesting for Jackie and to reduce the dependence on staff.  We also wanted to increase the time spent washing to meet the CDC recommended 30 seconds. Because Jackie has shown an attraction to lights, we purchased a “Time Tracker” device. This device has the colors of a stop light that show Jackie how long to spend washing her hands.

These small steps are leading to big successes! For Jackie and other students the significance of gaining hygiene skills has resulted in major benefits, not the least of which is increased independence, self-esteem and social acceptance.

Kathleen Johnston

Residential Curriculum and Staff Development Specialist

The Maryland School for the Blind

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