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How Do Laundry Skills Benefit Individual with Special Needs?

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Laundry is a universal task that is commonly performed on a daily basis, and as such, it presents an excellent opportunity for both parents and children to learn and work together on household chores. There exist several approaches for imparting laundry skills, ranging from using washing and drying machines to sorting, organizing, carrying, and storing clothes. Through engaging in these laundry activities, children can gain an understanding of the step-by-step process while simultaneously stimulating their 5 senses by observing, listening, smelling, tasting, and touching. To enable children to assimilate these experiences, they need to be involved, prompted, guided, and encouraged to engage in basic practical activities, such as hanging, pinning, and folding, among others


The Benefits of Teaching Laundry Skills

There are several benefits to teaching laundry skills, such as promoting self-sufficiency, independence, and cost-saving by avoiding expensive laundry services. It also reduces environmental impact by using energy-efficient appliances and techniques, while improving overall cleanliness and hygiene. Additionally, learning these skills can be empowering and provide a sense of accomplishment.


General Awareness

It is important for individuals with autism to develop a general awareness of their clothing in terms of cleanliness and durability. Any activity, whether simple or demanding, can cause wear and tear on our clothes and result in unintentional sully of clothes. Therefore, it is essential for autistic individuals to be mindful of how they dress to maintain hygiene and prolong the life of their clothes.


Improve awareness of cleanliness and durability

1. Begin by taking a picture of the individual's clothing before any activities.

2. Engage in activities that may cause staining or wriggling to their clothes, such as messy play, gardening, or house chores.

3. After that, show them a picture of how they looked before to be compare to their current appearance using a mirror or by taking another photo.

4. Point out specific areas of their clothing that are sullied, such as dirty or wet spots.

5. If the activity caused damage to their clothing, such as holes, cuts, or tears, use the same method to point out where the damage is located.

6. Teach them to identify and recognise what caused their clothes to become dirty or damaged and how to prevent and handle it if it happens again. For instance, if their clothes got stained from paint, they can be more mindful of their surroundings. They can also wash, mend or repair damaged clothes to prolong their lifespan.



Communication Skills

While developing awareness of their own clothing is beneficial, it may not be sufficient for individuals with limited verbal skills or physical disabilities. These individuals may require alternative methods of communication to ask for assistance or guidance. This is particularly important for those who may need help performing tasks independently. In the following paragraphs, we will provide guides and information on how to improve communication.


Communication Tools required:

· AAC (tablet, phone)

· Visual guides (PECS, flash cards)


Step-by-step guides to improving communication:

1. Create a scenario where the clothing becomes dirty or wet.

2. Prompt them to form a sentence using verbal communication or AAC/visual guides to describe the situation, such as "My pants are wet."

3. Ask 'wh-' questions to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving, such as "What should you do?" Allow them time to think and prompt them if necessary.

4. Show them the laundry room and the placement of necessary items, such as the washing machine, clothes hanger, and pegs. Teach them the steps of cleaning the clothes.

5. Encourage repetitive practice to help them remember how to perform the tasks independently and who to ask for help if needed.


Fine motor skills

Discover the benefits of mastering the use of pegs on clothes:

· Using clothespins helps improve fine motor skills by requiring the child to hold and manipulate the small object.

· Regular practice with clothespins strengthens the child's pincer grip and finger muscles, which can benefit their overall dexterity and coordination.

· Successfully using clothespins can boost a child's self-confidence and encourage them to take on more independent tasks.

· Learning to use clothespins can also teach children the importance of sharing household chores and taking responsibility for their own belongings.

· The activity of hanging clothes with clothespins can promote development of hand-eye coordination and organization skills in children.


How to Introduce the clothespin activity to the child?

Step-by-step introduction to the clothespin activity:

1. Invite the child to the table with the activity tray.

2. Introduce the materials to the child by naming the items, such as "these are clothespins, these are clothes, and this is a clothesline."

3. Demonstrate to the child how to hold the clothespin using the three fingers of the dominant hand.

4. Allow the child to hold the clothespin and observe.

5. Show the child how to apply pressure to open the clothespin and release the pressure to close its mouth.

6. Encourage the child to try opening and closing the clothespin themselves.

7. Once the child feels confident with opening and closing the clothespin, move on to hanging clothes to dry.

8. Demonstrate to the child how to hang clothes on the clothesline.

9. Use a clothespin to fix the clothes, so they do not fly away with the wind.

10. Repeat the activity to hang the rest of the clothes.

11. Explain to the child that this is how we hang clothes to dry using a clothespin.

12. Invite the child to try the activity themselves.



Organization

Organizing skills are essential for individuals with autism for several reasons:

a) Develop important cognitive skills such as problem-solving, attention to detail, and decision making. By sorting and organizing objects, they can learn to recognize:

o similarities and differences

o group similar items

o distinguish between important features.

b) Develop important life skills such as organization, time management, and planning. They can learn to:

o plan and prioritize tasks,

o manage their time efficiently, and

o maintain an organized environment.



How to introduce organizational activity set up and executions to child?

The activity can be set up by picking an area with very little traction, preferably a place where the activity will be repeated. Next, set up the laundry basketing, sorting containers or bins with the appropriate labels or pictures nearby. During the introduction of organizing activity, it is important for the guardian to demonstrate how to sort the laundry into the correct containers and provide visual or physical assistance as needed.


Once the laundry is sorted, the activity can be moved on to the hanging and folding stage. Provide clothespins, a clothesline or drying rack, and hangers for the child to use accordingly. Again, demonstrate how to hang and fold the laundry and aid as needed.


Here's a list of materials that can be used for setting up a laundry organizing activity:

· Laundry basket or hamper

· Sorting containers or bins

· Labels or pictures to represent the different categories (e.g. type, color, owner)

· Clothespins

· Clothesline or drying rack

· Hangers

· Picture or written instructions

· Timer or visual schedule


Example of teaching steps

1. Gather clean clothes in a pile.

2. Pick up one piece of clothing and put it in the basket for that type of clothing (for example, all the shirts in one basket and all the pants in another basket).

3. Repeat step 2 for each piece of clothing.

4. Once all the clothes are sorted into baskets, put each basket in its designated spot.

5. High-five or praise yourself for a job well done!


Below is a demonstration video of laundry skills. Enjoy!

Part 1



Part 2


Example of Laundry Visual Aids








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