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The Use of Self-Management Strategies for Increasing the Appropriate Hygiene of Persons with Disabilities in Supported Employment Settings

Brushing your teeth, wiping your mouth after eating and shaving are tasks often taken for granted, seen as "common sense." Looking presentable helps to make a good impression in social relationships as well as in the work setting. But suppose these skills have not been learned... What if the individual does not realize the benefits of good personal hygiene or that they are even "guilty" of a faux pas in the first place? This is a concern particularly for some people with developmental disabilities. Self-management skills, the techniques that give a person the ability to monitor him or herself, can help.

Personal hygiene for anyone, particularly people in supported employment settings, influences:

  • Work performance

  • Autonomy

  • Wages

  • Self-esteem and

  • Considerations for termination

For individuals who need assistance maintaining their grooming habits, many self-management interventions can provide them with strategies to manage this. Traviss Garff and Storey (1998) give case study illustrations of self-management success.

With this study, three individuals were used who:

  • Have developmental disabilities

  • Work in supported employment settings

  • And had hygiene issues negatively affecting their:

  • Job performance

  • Employer evaluations &

  • Social relationships

The researchers developed a questionnaire of yes/no items about the appropriateness of each individual's hygiene and asked the supervisor or job coach to rate this as the employee arrived at work. This assessment was used as a baseline of the worker's typical appearance. Next, the researchers met with the clients to:
  • Break down the steps of the particular hygiene issue into a checklist form

  • Model how to perform the tasks (and had them repeat the steps)

  • Provide them with feedback and praise

  • Teach the individuals to self-reinforce by establishing a motivating reward.

Once this was accomplished, maintenance of the skills was assessed once a month for three months after the intervention using the same questionnaire method with the supervisors.

All three participants had favorable increases in their hygiene skills. Findings such as this support the notion that learning self-management skills for personal hygiene is helpful for persons with developmental disabilities. The use of these strategies can lead to improvements in quality of life by influencing employability, less reliance on others, and facilitates social relationships as well.

Traviss Garff, J., & Storey, K. (1998). The use of self-management strategies for increasing the appropriate hygiene of persons with disabilities in supported employment settings. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 33(2), 179-188.