Personal Hygiene For Kids With Autism & Sensory Processing Disorder. Why is it so hard to get your child to embrace that seven letter word (hygiene)?
If there is any subject that most parents of an Autism Spectrum child are most curious about, it’s hygiene. If there is one subject most refuse to talk about, it’s hygiene. And in my book, Asperger’s in Pink, it is also one I really don’t address, either. But it is one we have dealt with over and over again.
Hygiene, also considered self-care, is something we all are involved with. And talking about it makes many of us…cringe.
If you’ve seen the movie about Temple Grandin’s life, you’ll recall the scene where her boss slaps a stick of deodorant on her desk, demanding that she use it. Despite her incredible genius, this was one little piece that wasn’t part of her daily routine. And if you are a parent of someone on the Autism Spectrum or someone with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), you likely know far too well what I’m talking about.
Self-care is such a big topic; we could devote a book to it. Regardless, let’s see if we can hit a few notes that may help today with personal hygiene for kids.
There are many, many reasons why those on the spectrum or with SPD have trouble in the area of hygiene. Just to name a few, trouble can stem from such things as gross/small motor coordination to tactile defensiveness. Then there are those who are “sensory seeking” who may spend so long in the shower, the local reservoir would cry out for mercy if it could.
If you are struggling to get your child to embrace that seven letter word (hygiene), here are a few things to think about before the next bathing battle.
PERSONAL HYGIENE FOR KIDS WITH AUTISM OR SPD
1.) Your child is avoiding the shower.
What is the main complaint? Is it water getting into his eyes? Is it the feel of the water pounding on the skin that feels like a million needles? Understand what the root problem is and address it. Some kids (mine included) have used swimming goggles in the shower. Some also skip showers and trade them for old-fashioned baths. Both do the job. There is no rule that says you have to take a shower over a bath – unless you literally have no tub in the house. But, yes, the hair has to be thoroughly cleaned, which means all of it has to get wet, which is definitely trickier in a tub. For those who do not wash their hair every day, consider setting aside certain days of the week for that task. (That makes it part of the routine.)
2.) Your child won’t get out of the shower.
What is the main reason? Many times, it’s because it’s sensory heaven. For these kids, set a timer for them to finish up. Remember, not all kids have an innate sense of the passing of time. Telling them they have five minutes may mean nothing to them.
3.) Your child won’t brush her hair.
I can recall screams when it came to hair brushing time. Loads of them. But my daughter didn’t want short hair, so it was something she dealt with. If your child is having a hard time with hair brushing, there are two options. Either get a short, easy care hair cut that is less prone to tangles or put up with properly caring for it. (Love, Mom.)
4.) Your child avoids brushing their teeth.
There are tons of toothbrushes with timers in them. Grab a few and use them. Talk to your child’s dentist about flossing and other oral care methods. There are dentists out there who do work with children who have autism. It’s worth your time to seek and find them.
5.) Your child will not use deodorant.
Take the time to teach your child the proper use of deodorant as well as how and how often to clean that area. (Think not just daily, but after sports, etc.) They may not notice when they smell or may not really care. Be patient and persistent, and be prepared to explain why we use it in the first place.
6.) Your child wears the same shirt for a week straight.
Does your child wear the same clothes over and over again? No matter the protest, they do need regular washing. Don’t focus so much on changing up the wardrobe than keeping the limited one she has clean. Again, the goal is cleanliness, not making the cover of a magazine.
7.) Your child is old enough to shave.
If your child is old enough to start shaving, be prepared for lots of trial and error here. Keep in mind your child’s motor skills when teaching this skill, and keep an eye out for nicks and cuts. Those who have issues interpreting sensory stimuli may not realize when they’ve cut themselves, while others may feel discomfort even if things are running smoothly. You may find they need hands on help in this area for quite a while. That’s ok.
There are so many areas to cover, but these should provide some basics. I’d love to hear from you if you have any tips to share! (Psst…don’t be too specific in signing your name as your kids may stumble across this someday…)
Want to read more articles about children with Autism and SPD?
- Helping With School Anxiety In Children
- Telling Your Child They Have Autism
- Sensory Difficulties At Sporting Events
- Indulging Special Interests for Children