Hygiene & Grooming
Independent living skills are the activities people perform, according to their abilities, which enable them to manage their homes and personal lives. The development of independent living skills is important to all students and particularly with students who are blind and visually impaired.
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By: Carmen Willings
Updated June 9, 2019
Learning personal hygiene and independence in grooming are important skills for all students to learn. These are equally important for students who are blind or visually impaired. It may take students longer to master these skills but it is essential to encourage independence and avoid the urge to do the task for them in a rush to complete the activity.
General Bathroom Tips
Families can help students by making simple adaptations to the bathroom to help the student discriminate and identify items and promote safety.
Remember to be sensitive and respect the student’s privacy when teaching personal hygiene skills. Many of these skills can be more naturally taught at home by caregivers. Keeping hygiene products in a consistent location will make locating them easier. For students with low vision, either purchase items that provide high contrast or attach labels to the containers.
Encourage the student to independently turn on and off the water at the sink, soap their own washcloth, blow and wipe their own nose and brush their teeth. Also, have the physically able student flush the toilet and style their own hair. Students should learn to identify if their teeth are clean if their face and hands are clean and if their body is clean and free of body odor.
Provide grooming supplies with contrasting colors for students with low vision and organize items in separate containers in a drawer so they can locate them independently. Don't miss opportunities during self-care routines to embed concepts (in/out, up/down, wide/narrow, depth, matching, rough/soft, front/back, etc.) and fine motor and tactual discrimination skills. Use, touch, and talk about the feel of a hairbrush, toothbrush, wet and dry items (towels, soap, sponges), the lather of soap to promote finger sensitivity. Squeeze toothpaste and wring washcloths to develop hand strength. Pull Kleenex from a tissue box to develop hand strength. Students should learn to identify if their hair is neat and styled and is clean.
Instruct the student to place their finger alongside the bristles of the toothbrush to monitor how much toothpaste is being applied.
Instruct the student to use points on the face to know where to shave. Advise the student to use overlapping strokes and use tactile skills to determine where to repeat strokes.
Instruct the student how to label products for identification and how to apply them using facial features as landmarks. A towel placed in the lap can help protect clothing from spills. Using subtle shades can help ensure makeup looks smooth and even.
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