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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!
7 Tips for Taking a Vacation with a Teenager with Autism
*This post contains affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you, but will greatly help our family. Please see our disclosure for further information.
This past weekend I was able to go on a little vacation to Kansas City with my brother, mom, and husband. We left Thursday evening and were able to come back Sunday afternoon. This was a nice little get away for our family to spend some quality time together. As a family, we have learned over the years some tips and strategies to help my brother have success and fun while on vacation. As many of you know, a new experience can be difficult for a child or teenager with autism to handle.
Here are some tricks that we have learned over the years to help create a fun and safe experience for my brother while on vacation.
- Always learn to be patient. I feel this is key in all areas of our lives, but it still stays true on a vacation. When going on a vacation, we get out of our normal every day routine and there are going to be unexpected events. This can be difficult for my brother to handle when he doesn’t know what could happen next. We always try to be patient in every new situation to give my brother time to process each situation.
- Pack food we know he likes. My brother is still a picky eater, but he has gotten so much better at the willingness to try more foods. It is very difficult for us to go to a restaurant together and sit down to have a meal even today. My mom does a wonderful job of packing foods and snacks that she knows he will like so that when we get to the hotel we don’t have to go and find a grocery store or a specific fast food restaurant that he will only eat at.
- Do your research before you go and find activities you know your child will enjoy. I know this one may seem a little obvious, but do some research before you go to make sure there is a special activity that your child/teenager will really look forward to when you go. We want to make sure the trip will be exciting and fun for everyone! For our trip this weekend, my brother was super excited to go to Dave and Buster’s! He had never been to one before and was so excited to go! He was the one that actually did the research beforehand and found out we were staying close by. He did his own research and sought out an activity that he knew he really wanted to do. In fact, we went two days 🙂
- Let your teenager have some choices and say in what they want to do. My mom has always been great at this, she does her best to make sure we can all try to do something we want to do on the trip. She gives my brother choices every day of the trip to let my brother do what he wants to do. If we are trying to do something as a family where he doesn’t have a choice, then we just tell him we are going to go do this and it will be so much fun! Let’s go! In some instances, during the day he doesn’t always have a choice, but when he can we make sure to give him a choice so he can choose what he wants to do.
- Make sure you have some down time to rest. A vacation is usually fast paced and exciting, but our family always makes sure we make time to rest back at the hotel. My brother loves just having downtime to play on his iPad or to get on his computer. We make sure he has this during his day to help regulate his sensory system. Make sure you don’t forget what types of activities help to regulate your child while on vacation.Make sure you find ways to incorporate that throughout your vacation to allow your child to be their best!
- Try to keep to a typical sleeping routine. My mom and brother are night owls, and I am not one any longer 🙁 Now, with my work schedule I usually try to go to bed earlier. I know that my mom does her best to try to keep my brother on his regular sleeping schedule to help him have enough energy to enjoy the next day’s activities.
- We always try to pack some extra clothes, activities, and a pillow. Our family is one of those families that always brings too much, but we have learned that sometimes it is better to have too much than not the right stuff for your child. My mom does a great job of packing some extra clothes or outfits for my brother incase something were to happen and he wouldn’t like an outfit one day or it got dirty. She also does a great job of packing activities she know he likes. For example she packed some of his favorite things right now to help with the drive and waiting times in the hotel. She packed his fidget spinner, headphones, iPad, and putty. She also does a great job of bringing an extra pillow so that he will have something we know he likes when he goes to sleep. Not every hotel has great pillows and beds, but at least this way we know he has a pillow he likes.
Do you have any tips and strategies that have worked well for your family when you go on a vacation with your child or teenager? We would love to hear your tips in the comments below! We can always learn more to best be able to help my brother!
Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo — from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia! Want to join in on next month’s Voices of Special Needs Hop? Click here!
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Sensory Strategies to Improve Independence with Dressing
Every person has different sensory preferences in our everyday lives. Some of us like a very calm environment, warm baths, listening to music, soft textures, or to eat sweet foods. We even have sensory preferences when it comes to dressing. I know I enjoy wearing yoga pants and a loose fitting shirt over dress pants and a dress shirt. My brother also prefers to wear clothes that are soft and loose fitting. As a family, we know that getting dressed every day can be a big chore and we want to help you find sensory strategies to help make the every day task of getting dressed easier for your child/teenager with Autism easier for every one.
Here are some sensory strategies we have found helpful with my brother when it comes to clothing textures:
There are various clothing textures that can bother children when it comes to dressing.
Seams in clothes, some children dislike the feeling of seams
Try finding clothes that are seamless
- Seamless Socks:
- Tank tops:
Texture of the clothes (cotton, wool, or spandex)
- Figure out what types of textures of clothes your child likes and stick with that so that they can feel safe and become less anxious with dressing.
Binding in the clothes (elastic waist bands, overlapping clothes)
- Try finding clothes that will not bind or wrinkle
Loose Clothes or Tight Clothes
- Some children do not like the feeling of loose clothes and may prefer tighter clothes and vice versa.
- See if you can find clothes that are tighter such as compression shirts or under armor shirts
Stiff Clothing (like jeans)
- Some children have a very hard time being able to wear jeans. Try to find pants that they enjoy wearing. If they need to wear jeans for an occasion then try to find jeans with a soft/stretchy texture.
- You could try these stretchy elastic waist jeans
Some children can be bothered by clothing that could touch the child’s head. Be aware of this with your child and notice if hats really bother them.
Shoes can be something that your child might have a hard time with. Some kids prefer closed toes shoes or open toe shoes. Try to find shoes that allow your child to be independent with dressing. If they become frustrated with tying their shoes try elastic shoe laces or velcro shoes. Maybe your child would like light up shoes for fun! Try to find shoes that are comfortable for your child that they can be successful with in dressing.
Weight of the clothing (heavy clothes vs. light clothes). Pay attention to the time of year is your child more bothered by heavy winter clothes or light summer clothes? Is there a way you can take away layers or add layers in textures of clothes that your child still prefers?
When children are bothered by the feeling of their clothes they may constantly tag or pull at their clothes. They may have difficulty needing to change clothes through out the day such as for swimming lessons or after getting dirty. If you child does become bothered by changing clothes, try to limit the number of times they will need to change their clothes. Also shopping for new clothes may cause a lot of stress. See if you can do more shopping online where they have free returns so you don’t have to cause too much stress for your family.
Children can also have visual and auditory preferences with clothing and this is something to consider.
If your child becomes very irritated by the clothing texture, see if you can find textures of clothes that they are more comfortable in. Don’t force them to wear clothes that they really dislike wearing.
If you find a certain texture of clothing that your child/teenager is more likely to wear such as a loose fitting shirt that is cotton, when they need to find clothes for a different occasion such as a wedding, try to find a dress shirt made out of cotton that is a little looser feeling.
I know it may feel super time consuming trying to find clothes that are similar in feeling for different occasions, but once you are able to find something to help your child be successful and more independent with dressing and have less meltdowns with the dressing process, this can make your family’s life a lot easier.
- Find the texture of clothes that your child prefers and avoid ones that your child really does not like
- If they need to wear a certain type of fabric they do not like, try having them wear a clothing texture they do like under the clothes so their body does not have to feel the texture they don’t like.
- If needed, the child can wear clothing inside out so they do not feel the seams.
- Try warming up the clothes in the dryer before needing to get dressed if your child prefers warm feelings.
- You may try washing clothes multiple times to make if more soft.
- Set up the environment for success by setting out the clothes for them or making sure they are easily accessible in their room for them to get dressed more independently.
- You can also try labeling the dresser drawers or organizing their closet with specific types of clothing in certain areas to make it easier for them to find the different types of clothes.
- Use hooks or hangers at eye level for the child to be able to visually see all of the items.
- Provide a visual checklist of each step of dressing to help the child visually see how to get dressed.
- Provide a rewards chart with stickers for your child to visually see a reward they can work towards with getting dressed independently every day.
- If your child likes music, try playing music while getting dressed.
- Make up a silly song about getting dressed and sing it together while your child is getting dressed.
- Use a mirror to help your child visually see how they are getting dressed.
- You can model the behavior you want with them when it comes to getting dressed so they can visually see how to put that item of clothing on.
- Allow for extra time in the morning and night to allow your child to practice each skill and become more independent. That way you don’t feel so rushed. If it is hard to have extra time in the morning, make it a priority to practice the dressed skills at night when you aren’t feeling rushed to leave in the morning.
- Before getting dressed in the morning or before bed, talk about the dressing process and tell them the exact steps that need to be accomplished so they know the routine.
- Try calming activities before getting dressed with a massage
- Complete deep pressure or heavy work activities before getting dressed such as squeezes, jumping on the trampoline, crab walk, or bear crawl.
If your family is still struggling to with dressing, please contact your local occupational therapist and they will be able to provide you with specific strategies for your child and family.
Please let me know if there are certain types of clothes that work well for your child or teenager and I would love to add them to the list to help provide a comprehensive dressing resource for families! Please leave a comment about them below!
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you looking for Resources to help your family find information about Autism? We have created an amazing FREEBIE with over 180+ Autism and Special Needs Resources just for you!
Teaching Personal Hygiene Self-Care Tasks
As you may know our family is working hard to teach my teenage brother with autism to be independent with every day tasks and some of those skills include personal hygiene self care tasks. My mom, really wanted to know where he stood with how much he could do on his own and how much he was needing help from her at home. So, we created these charts with the steps broken down for each task so we could monitor how much assistance he was needing with each skill. Then my mom could learn which steps he was needing the most help with and we could brainstorm ideas on ways he could do those steps more independently.
Here is a sample of 3 of the task analysis charts for you to preview! If you would like to download all for FREE please provide me with your name and email address below! Tasks you will receive: showering, bathing, brushing teeth, washing face, toileting routine for boys, girls, and bowel movement, and brushing hair!
For example, he was learning to wash his face every day with a new acne soap to help him with his skin. In the beginning my mom had to do each step for him because he hated to get his face wet with water and he was afraid to get soap in his eyes. One way we helped him with this fear was by having a dry towel within arms reach that he could get to if he felt like he was going to get water or soap in his eyes. This helped to calm him so that he was more willing to complete the task. Then each day my mom would try one simple step for him to try such as getting his hands wet and just touching this face and then gradually working to having him getting this face wet himself. This was a very slow process and we were very patient with him, but over time and with lots of repetition he was able to do this skill pretty much all by himself. Now my mom just stands by and watches incase he needs something and plus this helps with his fear as well.
As a family, we know that these skills can be difficult to learn and take lots of time and repetition to help our children learn to do these skills independently. We also know that there has to be somewhat of an intrinsic motivation for the child to want to be independent with the skill. For my brother, he was motivated to learn these skills to help his skin feel and look better and he had mentioned that he wanted to get married one day 🙂 So we had a conversation about how if you want to get a girlfriend you will want to smell nice for her. These were ideas were intrinsically motivating for him so he was more willing to practice this skill as well.
Think about your families life and dynamic? What is important to your child? Have they mentioned anything about friends or how their body feels? Maybe that could be an idea to go with to help motivate them to learn this skill. Or do they have someone they look up to that could talk to them about the importance of keeping our bodies clean and healthy?
Let me know in the comments below if there are any strategies you have used to help your teenager with autism be more motivated to learn the personal hygiene skills?
Are you looking for more Autism Resources? Check out our post with over 180+ Autism and Special Needs Resources to help you feel less overwhelmed! It is an amazing FREE download!!