PrAACtical Conversations About Hand Washing
The other day, a friend posted something on social media that many of us can relate to. “Between all the hand sanitizer and cleaning solution that my skin absorbs,” she said, “I’m probably disinfecting the toilet with every trip to the bathroom!”
While that’s a bit of a stretch, it is true that most of us are washing our hands more often now than ever before. And for good reason. But some of our AAC learners don’t really like hand washing and it can be a struggle to have them do that several times a day.
In today’s post, we share some ideas that can help keep those hands clean. Not everyone will need every strategy, but we included several ideas so that you can select those that are most beneficial for the AAC learners in your life.
- Teach the skill and use a visual schedule to illustrate the steps. Don’t assume that everyone knows how to wash their hands correctly.
- Build it into the schedule. We can put handwashing into the schedule several times a day to help build the expectation that this is part of the regular routine.
- Read about it. Develop a social narrative about hand washing or download one of the free resources in this collection.
- Watch a video about it, like this one from the UK National Health Service or these from the US Center for Disease Control. Or, watch Crawford the Cat as he washes up. You can find more video suggestions here.
- Use a visual support. Visual supports can be useful in helping AAC learners understand that they need to wash their hands repeatedly. In the image below, we fold down a flap after each time that we wash our hands both to give a sense of accomplishment and also to get a sense of how many more times we’re planning to wash our hands.
- Make it fun. If you experience a great deal of resistance, try some water play.
- Make some ‘Soap Soup.’
- Use soapy water to give plastic animals a bath.
- Wash some Legos in a tub of soapy water.
- Share the accomplishment. Text a photo to Nana. Brag about it in earshot of the learner. Many learners respond really well when we make handwashing something to be proud of.
If you are following along with our Year of Core Vocabulary Words, you already know that we’ll need to find ways to model and elicit our April words (big, busy, do, drink, feel, he, in, make, out, some, tell, who) while we do some of these activities. Here are some sample sentences to get you started.
- What a BIG guy you are!
- It’s no BIG deal.
- You’ve been very BUSY.
- We have something to DO.
- Let’s DO our hand washing.
- This water is for washing. That water is for DRINKing.
- Do you want a DRINK when we’re done?
- I FEEL very proud of you.
- You don’t FEEL like stopping to wash.
- I’m going to put the soap IN your hands.
- Can you MAKE lots of bubbles?
- Let’s MAKE sure we dry off.
- We need SOME warm water, don’t we?
- I can get SOME more soap for you.
- I can’t wait to TELL Ms. Santiago what a good job you did!
- TELL Nana what we did.
- WHO’s next?
- I see someone WHO has clean hands!
Are you incorporating handwashing in your AAC work? We’d love to hear about it.
This post was written by Carole Zangari