Personal Grooming for Special Needs adolescents – The Gateway School

Improving Personal Grooming Before Going PrimeTime

Gateway School recently posted about one of the most vital topics and primary goals of our schools: soft skills in the employment environment. These soft skills are the result of several decades of research that culminated in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) developing a special curriculum, entitled Soft Skills for Workplace Success. They include accepting criticism, personal grooming, appropriately reading social cues, interacting with employees, and independently asking for help, among others.

grooming for adulthood

One of the most crucial interpersonal and social skills we teach adolescent and young adult students with special needs is personal grooming and proper hygiene, including dressing appropriately for the job. Before our graduates transition to an adult system of care program such as PrimeTime Center, they must be able to wash their hands, shower every day, shampoo their hair, and dress appropriately for the weather and job environment, etc.

We strive to increase awareness and teach improved hygiene skills, using a variety of techniques:

Workbooks & Therapy Materials

Student workbooks include photographs, line drawing pictures, sequencing activities and problem solving questions. They incorporate social conversation skills the speech therapists call “pragmatics”. For example, photographs can serve as an ideal conversational starter regarding the topic of hygiene. This leads to achieving goals like sequencing, labeling actions, describing and expanding vocabulary.


Look no further than your tablet or iPad. iDo Hygiene is an innovative and comprehensive learning app for tooth brushing, shampooing, hand washing, toilet training, taking a shower and using a public bathroom. It was designed specifically for those diagnosed on the autism spectrum, built by special education experts in cooperation with parents, occupational therapists, speech therapists, teachers and researchers. You can watch step-by-step demonstration videos and picture sequences, or make your own. It preserves personal materials and gives you the option of operating both offline and online. Most importantly, it is accessible and user-friendly with a diverse use of media. Other useful apps include My Healthy Smile App, or Making Sequences, which simply allows you to take photos and have your child put the steps in order.

Social Stories

What is sequencing but a form of storytelling? Social stories are available online but you can create them yourself. Simply include different real-life situations in which the student will be expected to perform a particular form of personal hygiene, like washing their hands. You can take photos of each situation, create sentences that go with them, laminate the pages and create a book. Expect to improve behavior when there are changes in routine, encourage children to complete their least favorite tasks and reinforce or teach abstract concepts. Most importantly, your child’s independence should show improvement due to his or her being able to complete parts of a routine with less help or prompting.


Games never go out of style. Hygiene bingo boards are a perfectly acceptable way to help with specific vocabulary related to hygiene. You can also work on function of objects, matching, turn taking and literacy. Create your own games!

Request a Tour of The Gateway School

Since 1980, RKS Associates has been a leader in providing the needs of special education students and helping children grow to their fullest potential. Each of our schools seeks to empower each student with skills for life, work, and recreation; we believe that every individual possesses the dignity and potential to contribute to a better world.

As part of the RKS Associates Network of schools in New Jersey, the goal at the Gateway School is to assist all students in becoming as independent as possible and help them get ready for the future. Located in Carteret, NJ, we serve individuals throughout Central and Northern New Jersey. Contact us at our main office at 732.541.4400 with any questions or schedule a private tour of the Gateway School today.

Chris Hoye, Principal-The Gateway School of Carteret, NJ