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Not only do we need to understand the steps of taking a shower or taking a bath, but we also need to figure out how we can teach those specific steps to our children. Our family has been working hard to help my teenage brother with autism how to take a shower independently. We wanted to share with you tips and tricks that we have used to help my brother learn to be more independent with this skill!
Tips on How to Regulate the Water Temperature Before Getting into the Shower or Bathtub
This could be a dangerous skill, make sure a parent is always around when you are working on regulating the temperature of the water. Make sure you are modeling the skill for your child and showing them exactly how to turn on the facet. If you find a consistent temperature that your child likes the water at take a permanent marker or something to mark where to turn the facet to so they have a visual of where to stop.
If your facet doesn’t have labels or color coding to understand which way to turn on the facet, you can try to add these. You could try adding blue and red stickers to the faucet to visually show hot and cold.
Try using hand over hand physical cues to help them understand how to turn on the faucet in your shower or bathtub. Practice this skill over and over with an adult present to make sure they do not burn themselves and keep repeating until they understand what temperature to place the faucet at.
Tips on How to Wash the Body while in the Shower or Bathtub
If you feel comfortable doing this you could model how to take a shower for your child with you in your swimming suit for modesty. If not, be there in the bathroom with your child and show them the steps you want them to take with how to get their bodies wet with water, how much soap to use, and then how to rinse off their bodies in the water. Show them exactly how to turn their bodies in the water so they can rinse off their front side, back side, private areas, under their arms, and their head. You can also use a handheld shower head if that makes it easier for your child to reach the areas of their body to fully rinse off and get wet.
Always make sure they are safe in the shower, especially if their balance is a little shaky. Try adding grab bars to the shower. We recommend getting ones where you can drill them into a stud to make sure they are strong and stable (you may want to hire a contractor for this), but if you need there are suction cup grab bars that you will need to check every time you shower to make sure they are stable and locked. You can also add a non slip mat at the base of the tube to help with traction.
You can try using a wash cloth or loofah while in the shower or bathtub to have put the soap on that to wash off their body if they want something to hold onto while washing their bodies. A bar of soap may be too slippery and just placing body wash in their hand may be difficult for them to lather and be able to spread on their entire body. You can also try a long handled sponge to reach some of those hard areas like our backs or lower legs as well.
When rinsing off their bodies show them how to look around to see if they see soap bubbles on their bodies anywhere and that means that there is still soap on their bodies and we want to wash all of that off before getting out of the shower.
When washing hair, show them which container is shampoo and which one is conditioner. You can write the numbers 1 or 2 on top to tell them which ones to do first or you could add a rubber band around one of the containers for texture if they have some visual difficulties to let them feel which one is the shampoo and which one is the conditioner. If this is difficult for your child you could always purchase 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner to take away one of the steps. Show them how much to put i their hands and giving them a reference like saying it shouldn’t be larger than a size of a quarter. If this is something they need to practice, purchase some cheap shampoo or conditioner to help them work on the amount of force they need to use to get out the appropriate amount of soap.
Also show and tell them how wet their hair and body needs to be before putting soap in their hair or body. Have them practice and tell them when that is enough. Also show them exactly how much to rub onto their bodies or in their hair by doing it for them, and then having them do it with you and slowly you can stop doing it and have them do it more independently.
When they are done washing and rinsing off their bodies, show them exactly how to turn off the water so they can visually see how to do it and then do it hand over hand so they can physically feel how to turn it off. You can again use either a permanent marker or a sticker to show where to stop to turn off the faucet.
Are you looking for a FREE printable that you can laminate and place in the bathroom with the steps needed for your teenager to follow for completing either the bathing or showering routine? Look no further! Check out our FREEBIE below to download your own step by step list to help your teenager with autism learn the steps needed to be independent with personal hygiene skills.
Tips for Drying the Body Off
Lastly, working on drying off the body thoroughly can be difficult sometimes. Again, we physically show my brother how to use the towel to dry off and then we either have him start to dry off by himself or we finish for him because we want to make sure he really gets dried off. We keep practicing this skill and showing him how to reach all areas of his body. We show him in standing and in sitting to make things a little easier. We do less and less for him each time until he can dry off his body completely. Make sure you are using a towel with a texture that your child likes so they don’t have tactile difficulties. You could try a super soft towel or a quick drying towel. Another sensory tip, would be if your child likes warm textures, you could use a towel warmer or put the towel in the drier to be warm when they get out of the shower.
During the shower, some children may want access to a dry towel or wash cloth because they may get soap in their eyes and this can help them feel safer during the shower knowing they can quickly dry their eyes off.
Organizing the Bathroom for Success
How can we set up the bathroom to help our child or teenager to be more independent with bathing?
Assign a specific place for your child to store their showering or bathing supplies. If several of the bottles look a like or are the same shape or size you can add visual differences by writing numbers on them or adding a rubber band or hair tie around the container to differentiate the bottles.
Store the bath towels in an easy to reach location and during the shower make sure to keep it in a dry location where it is still within reach to the child or teenager.
If they have vision difficulties make sure to use high contract colors for items, for example, a white bar of soap is very hard to see agains a white tile soap dish. Using high contrast colors will be easier to see.
Create a visual schedule with the steps to complete the task, where you can download our FREEBIE above!
Modesty and Privacy
Teaching your teenager modesty and privacy can be huge in keeping them safe. Talk to them about situations where you use public behaviors and private behaviors. Explain why when taking a bath, undressing, touching private parts, or using the toilet are to be done in private. Tell them exactly what types of behaviors are acceptable to do in front of others. You can use our FREE checklist of what needs to be done to make sure they are using privacy while completing self care skills for bathing/showering, dressing, and toileting at home and in public.
We hope these tips can provide you with ideas to best help you teach your teenager/child with autism how to be more independent with bathing and showering. We know that these skills can take time and patience to learn and a lot of practice and repetition. When practicing these skills be practice safety first and always making sure your child is safe when around hot water. Please consult your doctor for medical advice or an occupational therapist in your local area for further questions or concerns. We are not responsible for injuries while practicing these skills.
Please let us know in the comments below if these tips are helpful and if there are others that have helped your family! We love hearing from you!