Autism and Puberty: Guide to Support Autistic Teens

Autism and Puberty: Guide to Support Autistic Teens

As an occupational therapist and a mother with a deeply personal connection to autism, I've navigated the complexities of neurodiversity through both professional and familial lenses. My journey began with my autistic brother, who, during his teenage years, opened my eyes to the unique challenges faced during puberty by those on the spectrum. This experience, combined with my role as a mother to a neurodivergent 5-year-old, has profoundly shaped my approach and understanding.

Puberty is a transformative and challenging time for any teenager, but for autistic teens, it can be a period of heightened confusion and distress. In this blog, “Autism and Puberty: Guide to Support Autistic Teens,” we'll explore how to navigate these turbulent waters with empathy, patience, and an informed perspective, keeping in mind the principles of neurodiversity and autistic-first language.

The Journey to Understanding: Embracing Autism During Puberty

One key to successfully navigating puberty with autism is to understand the unique ways in which these changes might be processed and expressed. While all teenagers face a similar set of physical changes, those with autism might experience heightened sensitivities or anxieties related to these changes. Adapting to new routines, processing complex emotions, and developing a new level of self-care become essential topics to address. As a caregiver, you play a crucial role in guiding your child through puberty by providing education, support, and the proper resources.

Key Takeaways

  • Puberty brings significant changes that may be more intense for autistic individuals.
  • Adapting strategies and supports specifically for autistic individuals is crucial during puberty.
  • Caregivers are invaluable in providing the necessary guidance and resources through this transition.

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Understanding Autism and Puberty

When your child approaches puberty, anticipate significant physical and emotional changes that can pose unique challenges and impact behavioral and cognitive development.

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Role of Puberty in Autism Spectrum Disorders

The onset of puberty can intensify pre-existing autism spectrum traits. Hormonal changes may exacerbate sensory sensitivities and developmental delays, making this phase demanding for you and your child. It's important to monitor these changes closely as they can affect how adolescents on the spectrum interact with the world.

Understanding the Unique Challenges of Puberty for Autistic Teenagers

Navigating a Complex Transition

Puberty is not just a physical transition but also a complex emotional and social journey, particularly for autistic teenagers. Understanding these unique challenges is the first step towards providing effective support.

During puberty, autistic adolescents often face a myriad of social changes. As young adults, they begin to experience hormonal changes, which can be especially intense for young women and autistic girls. The onset of puberty brings about new sexual urges and a need for a deeper understanding of social communication. In high school, navigating social situations becomes more complex, calling for appropriate support to help these older children adapt to these transitions.

Brain Development and Sensory Sensitivities

During puberty, the adolescent brain undergoes significant development. For autistic teens, this can manifest in unique ways. Their sensory experiences may intensify, making the physical changes of puberty—such as the growth of body hair or changes in voice—potentially overwhelming. This sensory overload can lead to heightened anxiety and a need for tailored approaches to manage these new sensations.

Emotional Changes and Mental Health

Autistic teenagers often face difficulties in regulating emotions, which can be exacerbated by the hormonal fluctuations of puberty. Mood swings may be more pronounced, and emotions might feel more intense or harder to manage. This period requires a sensitive approach, focusing on understanding, patience, and teaching self-regulation strategies.

Social Understanding and Safety

Social interactions become more complex during puberty, posing additional challenges for autistic teens. Understanding and adapting to social nuances, such as the changing dynamics in friendships or the onset of romantic interests, can be particularly challenging. There's also a need for guidance in differentiating between private and public behaviors, especially in relation to their developing sexuality.

Adapting to New Routines

During puberty, adapting to new routines is crucial, especially for individuals on the autism spectrum. The focus will be on essential hygiene practices, menstrual management, and bathroom independence to ensure well-being and safety.

Importance of Hygiene in Puberty

Personal hygiene becomes more significant as your body undergoes changes. It's important to incorporate daily habits such as showering, using deodorant, and managing acne. Tools like visual schedules can help you remember these new steps. For example:

  • Morning:

    • Brush teeth
    • Apply deodorant
    • Wash face with a gentle cleanser
  • Evening:

    • Shower with soap
    • Apply acne treatment if needed

Menstrual Management for Autistic Girls

If you are experiencing your menstrual cycle, understanding how to manage menstruation with pads or tampons is key. Here's a simplified list to follow during your period:

  1. Change your pad or tampon every 4-6 hours.
  2. Keep a small bag with menstrual supplies handy.
  3. Mark your calendar to track your cycle.

Teaching aids and social stories can also support girls in understanding the process and what to expect when menstruation begins.

Addressing Bathroom Independence and Safety

Achieving independence with bathroom routines is an essential step. Start with toilet training that includes:

For your safety, it might be helpful to establish a routine for locking the door and ensuring privacy. If you have questions or concerns, do not hesitate to ask a trusted adult or use available resources designed to aid you through this process.

Supporting Autistic Teens Through Physical Changes

Empathetic Guidance for New Experiences

Puberty is also marked by significant physical changes. Young people, including autistic teens, will notice the growth of pubic hair and other changes in their private body parts, which can be confusing and challenging to understand. It's vital for parents and caregivers to provide clear explanations and a supportive environment to ease this transition.

Clear, Accessible Communication

As bodies evolve, it's crucial to communicate these changes in a way that is both accessible and reassuring. Using simple, straightforward language, free from metaphors or euphemisms, can help in making these concepts easier to grasp. Visual aids, such as diagrams or picture books, can also be invaluable in explaining the physical transformations that occur during puberty.

Addressing Sensory Sensitivities

Many autistic teens have heightened sensory sensitivities, making certain aspects of puberty, like personal hygiene or skin changes, more challenging. Introducing sensory-friendly hygiene practices, like using unscented products or soft washcloths, can make a significant difference. Also, it's important to acknowledge their comfort levels and gradually introduce new routines.

Safe Spaces for Exploration and Questions

Creating a safe, non-judgmental space for autistic teens to express their concerns and curiosities about their changing bodies is essential. Encourage them to ask questions, and be prepared to answer them honestly and calmly. If direct discussions are challenging, consider writing down information or using story-based approaches to convey key points.

Collaborating with Schools and Healthcare Professionals

Partnering with your child's school and healthcare providers can ensure a consistent approach to managing puberty-related changes. Schools can play a vital role in providing education on these topics, while healthcare professionals can offer personalized advice and address any medical concerns.

In the next section, we'll delve into how to help autistic teens navigate the social and emotional changes that come with puberty, emphasizing the importance of understanding and patience.

Navigating Social and Emotional Changes

Fostering Emotional Growth and Social Understanding

The teen years are a period of heightened emotional and social development. Autistic adolescents might find it difficult understanding the nuanced social cues and expectations that come with becoming young adults. This difficulty is particularly pronounced in social situations and interactions with peers in settings like high school.

Fostering Healthy Relationships and Sexuality

Building healthy relationships is crucial as a teen. Relationships, including friendships and romantic ones, can be complex, and it's essential to learn about respecting boundaries, consent, and mutual respect. Incorporating social stories and appropriate education can help you understand social cues and how to navigate shifts in relationships during puberty. It might be beneficial to participate in discussions or workshops that focus on the many facets of sexuality and relationship building.

For sexuality, acknowledging and understanding sexual urges is a natural part of adolescence. It's important to grasp the concept of healthy relationships and sexuality, which includes recognizing and managing attractions and desires in a respectful manner.

Understanding and Managing Emotional Fluctuations

Puberty can bring about intense emotions and mood swings as your body goes through hormonal shifts. Understanding these emotions and how to manage them can be challenging. Utilizing tools such as mood diaries or emotion cards can be helpful strategies for identifying and coping with feelings.

You might also experience heightened sensory issues or changes in your mood that can lead to feelings of depression. Acknowledge these emotions as valid, and don't hesitate to reach out for support from trusted individuals or professionals when necessary. Remember, learning how to express and manage your emotions is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Social Skills and Interactions

As autistic teens enter puberty, their social world evolves. Friendships may change, and interests in romantic relationships can emerge. These developments can be confusing and overwhelming for autistic individuals who may struggle with social cues and nuances. Parents and caregivers can assist by explicitly teaching social skills and providing clear explanations about the evolving nature of relationships. Role-playing, social stories, and group activities can be effective tools in enhancing their social understanding.

Self-Identity and Independence

Puberty is a time of self-discovery, where teens begin to form their own identity. For autistic teens, this period can be both challenging and empowering. Encouraging them to explore their interests and hobbies, and providing opportunities for independence, can bolster their self-esteem and sense of self. It's also a time to celebrate their neurodiversity, acknowledging their unique strengths and perspectives.

Professional Support and Therapy

Seeking support from therapists who specialize in autism can provide autistic teens with strategies to cope with emotional and social challenges. Group therapy or social skills groups can also offer a supportive space to practice and develop social competencies in a safe environment.

In the next section, we'll discuss educational resources and tools that can aid parents and caregivers in supporting autistic teens through puberty.

Support and Resources for Parents and Caregivers

As the parent or caregiver of a young person with autism spectrum disorder, you'll find that effective communication and comprehensive educational resources are the pillars of navigating puberty. These elements are crucial in fostering a supportive environment.

Communication Strategies and Support Systems

Developing communication strategies can significantly aid discussions about the changes that come with puberty. It's beneficial to use positive language and be factual when explaining the details to your child. Resources like the Parent's Guide to Puberty and Adolescence for Children with Autism reinforce the importance of clear and empathetic communication.

For additional support, you can engage therapists specializing in autism who often have therapy and treatment strategies that are effective during puberty. Connecting with support groups can provide both you and your child with a sense of community and shared experiences.

Educational Resources and Tools

Empowering Through Knowledge and Understanding

As we navigate the journey of supporting autistic teens through puberty, equipping ourselves with the right educational resources and tools is crucial. These resources not only provide valuable information but also offer strategies for teaching and understanding that resonate with autistic teens.

Educational resources that focus on developmental disorders and the specific needs of autistic girls and boys during puberty are crucial. Visual schedules and tools that aid in executive functioning can be particularly beneficial in helping young people manage the complex changes they are experiencing.

Curated Book and Website Recommendations

Books can be a great resource for both parents and teens. They offer a range of perspectives and strategies, from explaining physical changes to managing emotional well-being. Titles like “Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!)” provide age-appropriate and respectful guidance. Websites are also invaluable resources, offering up-to-date information, interactive tools, and access to community support. These platforms can be especially useful for finding visual aids and social stories tailored to the unique needs of autistic teens.

Recommended Books

  1. “The Autism-Friendly Guide to Periods” by Robyn Steward: This book is ideal for literal thinkers and those who appreciate insights from autistic adults. It provides a thorough guide on menstruation with a gender-neutral tone​​.
  2. “Special Girls’ Business” by Fay Angelo, Heather Anderson, and Rose Stewart: Written for adolescent girls with disabilities, including autism, this book uses limited text and hand-drawn images to explain puberty-related changes in an inclusive manner.

Websites for Education and Resources

  1. American Autism Association's Official Puberty Guide: Provides comprehensive guidance on puberty-related changes and hygiene for autistic children​​.
  2. Children's National – Guiding Children with Autism through Puberty: Offers valuable resources like “Healthy Bodies Appendices” and guides for both boys and girls, addressing puberty-related changes and challenges​​.
  3. The Autism Community in Action (TACA): Includes information on managing acne, mood swings, and sexuality during puberty for autistic individuals​​.
  4. Living Well With Autism – Puberty Educational Resources and Social Stories: Offers social stories and resources like “Puberty: A Guide for Teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Parents”.

Teaching Aids and Visual Tools

Visual aids play a pivotal role in educating autistic teens about puberty. Detailed diagrams, charts, and illustrated guides can demystify the complexities of bodily changes and social dynamics. Social stories, a tool often used to teach social skills and expected behaviors, can be specifically designed to address puberty-related topics, helping teens understand and navigate this new phase of life.

Teaching Aids and Visual Tools

  1. Visual Aid for Showering via Living Well With Autism: Helps explain the process of showering and personal hygiene​​.
  2. Social StoriesTM: Useful for explaining the changes during puberty and how to behave in social settings.

Teaching Resources for Personal Hygiene Care Skills

Personal Hygiene Cares Ebook Bundle

Personal Hygiene Digital Activities Bundle

Taking A Shower Bundle

How to Teach Autistic Teenagers Personal Hygiene Self-Care Tasks

Technology and Interactive Learning

In today's digital age, technology offers diverse and accessible ways to educate and engage autistic teens. Interactive websites, educational apps, and online courses can provide interactive learning experiences that are both informative and engaging. These tools can be particularly effective in breaking down complex concepts into manageable, understandable segments.

Technology and Interactive Learning

  1. Websites like Autism-Friendly Periods: Provide interactive elements and additional information to support learning and understanding of puberty-related topics​​.
  2. Free Social Story Downloads: Websites like offer free downloads for social stories about menstruation, erections, and wet dreams, tailored to the needs of autistic individuals.

Neurodivergent Life Skills Toolbox Membership

As part of my commitment to supporting the neurodivergent community, I've created the “Neurodivergent Life Skills Toolbox Membership.” This affordable resource, available for only $9 a month, provides life skills teaching resources designed specifically for neurodivergent individuals. It's a treasure trove of tools, strategies, and insights to aid in the journey through puberty and beyond.

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Preparing for the Transition to Adulthood

Transitioning to adulthood can be a significant period for autistic young people. It's essential to focus on promoting independence, understanding sexual health, and ensuring personal development through specific strategies and supports.

Promoting Independence and Autonomy

As a parent or caregiver, you play a pivotal role in fostering independence and autonomy in your adolescent. Start by collaborating with professionals, like an occupational therapist, who can assist in developing tailored strategies that may include visual schedules or step-by-step guides to encourage recall of daily tasks. Consistent guidance and practice can help pre-teens and adolescents learn to manage daily living skills effectively.

Implementing these strategies steadily increases your child's confidence in their ability to function independently.

Sexual Health and Personal Development

Talking about sexual health is a critical part of the transition to adulthood. This conversation should include open discussions about sex, masturbation, and bodily changes such as erections and wet dreams. Your guidance in this sensitive area will help them understand and cope with ejaculation and other aspects of puberty.

Understand that these topics can be challenging, so approach them with patience and use resources designed to aid autistic young people. Therapy sessions might play a valuable role here, providing a safe space for such discussions. Remember, medication is not typically related to teaching about sexual health unless it pertains to specific medical needs.

  • Normalize Changes: Discuss changes in the body like ejaculation for males, and ensure that adolescents know these are normal aspects of development.
  • Privacy and Boundaries: Teach the importance of privacy and boundaries in the context of sexual development and relationships.

Incorporate accurate information with a friendly approach to support your child's well-being as they navigate through these formative years.

Practical Tips and Strategies

As children with autism enter puberty, you'll face unique challenges that require specific strategies. Below are practical tips to help manage daily living skills, regulate emotions and behavior, and address sensory processing issues that may arise during this time.

Daily Living Skills and Adaptive Strategies

Hygiene: Establish a routine for bathing and teeth brushing. You may find visual schedules helpful to remind your teen what steps to take. For instance, a chart with pictures for each step can make the process clearer and more manageable.

  • Bathroom Independence: Gradually introduce the concept of using the bathroom and changing underwear independently. Start by breaking down the process into small steps and role-playing them.
  • Books and Resources: Taking Care of Myself: A Hygiene, Puberty, and Personal Curriculum for Young People with Autism is a useful book to guide you through these processes.

Behavioral and Emotional Regulation Techniques

Identify Triggers: Be proactive in recognizing situations that may cause anxiety or depression. Keeping a diary may help to identify patterns and triggers for emotional outbursts.

  • Therapeutic Support: Consult with a therapist or a counselor who specializes in autism to develop coping strategies. Therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be beneficial in managing emotions.
  • Relaxation Practices: Incorporate relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or sensory activities that your child finds calming. This can be part of a daily routine to manage stress levels.

Navigating Puberty with Sensory Processing Issues

Clothing Choices: Selecting the right clothing, especially underwear, is crucial. Look for soft materials that don't irritate the skin, and consider seamless options to minimize discomfort.

  • Occupational Therapist: An occupational therapist can provide sensory integration therapy or recommend sensory tools that help your child cope with overwhelming stimuli.

By implementing these strategies and seeking out additional resources, you can provide support to your adolescent during puberty while promoting independence and self-care.

Professional Support and Therapy Options

When you’re navigating puberty with autism, it's crucial to know that professional support and therapy options can play a significant role in managing this challenging period.

Role of Therapists and Medical Professionals

Therapists and medical professionals are instrumental in helping individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as they undergo puberty. These experts can provide medication to help manage some of the physical and emotional changes if necessary. For example, they might prescribe medication to help with anxiety or mood swings that can become more pronounced during puberty.

Health professionals can also offer therapies to help with social skills and communication, which can be especially important as social dynamics become more complex during adolescence. They will assess your specific needs and monitor your progress, adjusting treatment as required to help you cope with puberty's challenges effectively.

Importance of Tailored Treatment Plans

A tailored treatment plan is essential because autism spectrum disorder affects each person differently. Your therapists will work with you to create a personalized plan that might include a combination of different therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or occupational therapy, to address your unique needs during puberty.

It's important for you to be actively involved in your treatment planning. Express your feelings, challenges, and preferences to your therapists. Your feedback will guide adjustments to the treatment to ensure it's the most supportive and effective for you during the transitionary stage of puberty.

Professional and Community Support

Building a Support Network for Autistic Teens During Puberty

Creating a supportive environment for autistic adolescents means ensuring they receive appropriate support that respects their unique developmental journey. This includes understanding the challenges faced by young women and young adults on the spectrum, particularly in terms of hormonal changes and social communication.

As parents and caregivers navigate the challenges of supporting autistic teens through puberty, tapping into professional and community resources can be invaluable. These networks provide support, specialized knowledge, and shared experiences that can help in managing this complex phase of development.

Collaborating with Healthcare Professionals

Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals, especially those experienced in working with autistic individuals, can offer crucial support. This may include pediatricians, neuropsychologists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists. These professionals can assist in addressing specific puberty-related health concerns, provide individualized strategies for managing sensory sensitivities, and support mental health and emotional well-being.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists can help in developing essential life skills, including personal hygiene routines, while addressing any sensory challenges that may arise during puberty.

Support Groups and Community Resources

Support groups offer a space for sharing experiences, receiving advice, and gaining emotional support from others who understand the journey through puberty with an autistic teen. Online forums and local community groups can be excellent sources of information and comfort. Additionally, workshops and seminars focused on puberty and autism can provide parents and caregivers with practical tips and strategies.

School Involvement

Schools play a critical role in supporting autistic teens during puberty. Collaborating with teachers, school counselors, and special education professionals ensures that your teen receives the necessary support in an educational setting. This collaboration can also facilitate the implementation of individualized education plans (IEPs) that address puberty-related needs.

Additional Community Services

Local autism organizations and community centers often offer resources, educational programs, and activities tailored to the needs of autistic individuals. Utilizing these services can provide additional support and enrichment for autistic teens as they navigate puberty.

In conclusion, embracing professional and community support is key to successfully guiding autistic teenagers through the complexities of puberty. These resources offer not only practical assistance but also the understanding and empathy needed during this significant life stage.

Books to Help Teach Autistic Boys about Puberty

When teaching autistic boys about puberty, it's essential to find resources that are tailored to their unique learning styles. Here are some books that can make this educational journey smoother for you and your child:

  • What's Happening to Tom?” by Kate E. Reynolds and Jonathon Powell is an informative read. It's specifically designed for boys and young men with autism, offering a straightforward approach to the complexities of puberty. Find this resource on Amazon.
  • Making the topic easier to digest, “The Care and Keeping of You” by Valerie Schaefer, while not autism-specific, offers clear information that can be helpful in explaining bodily changes. You can explore this guide at American Autism Association.
  • For a comprehensive curriculum, look to “Taking Care of Myself: A Hygiene, Puberty and Personal Curriculum for Young People with Autism” by Mary Wrobel. This book covers a range of topics essential for independence. It's available on Amazon.

Remember, each child's learning journey is unique. You may need to try a few different approaches to discover what resonates best with your son. These books are tools that can be adapted to fit the individual needs of your child as he navigates the changes of puberty.

Books to Teach Autistic Girls about Puberty

When you're ready to help your daughter, student, or loved one with autism understand puberty, there are tailored resources that can make the conversation easier. Here’s a selection of books designed specifically to assist girls on the spectrum:

  • “What's Happening to Ellie?” by Kate E. Reynolds is a warm book that explains puberty's challenges in a simple and affirming way. Illustrated with friendly characters, it takes you through everything from new hair growth to mood swings. Find it on Amazon.
  • For a comprehensive guide, consider “The Official Puberty Guide” by the American Autism Association. It not only covers puberty but also touches on sex and relationships. This guide can be extremely helpful if you're looking for a broader context. You can read it on the American Autism Association website.

Remember, the journey through puberty can be confusing and overwhelming for girls with autism. These books are designed to make the process educational, empathetic, and accessible. By using these resources, you can support the young women in your life through this significant stage with understanding and clarity.

YouTube Videos To Help Teach Puberty to Autistic Teens

Navigating puberty can be challenging for autistic teens. Thankfully, there are several YouTube videos specifically tailored to help you and your autistic teen through this time.

  • Understanding the Basics: The video Autism & Puberty is a great starting point. It outlines fundamental changes your adolescent will go through and offers tips for your role as a guide.
  • For Autistic Boys: The Puberty Video for Boys with Asperger Syndrome goes beyond the basic anatomy lessons, helping young men comprehend the social aspects linked to puberty.
  • For Teen Girls: Watch Autism In Teens: Navigating Through Puberty where a mother of a teen girl with autism shares how she guides her daughter, especially with menstrual cycle management.
  • Coping Strategies: The topic of coping with autism and puberty discusses soothing techniques for the various stressors that may accompany puberty for an autistic teen.
  • Preparing for Changes: Lastly, the webinar Preparing for Puberty in Children with Autism covers a range of topics and prepares you to help your child through the developmental changes of puberty.

Feel free to explore these resources at your own pace, ensuring that you have the support and information needed for this significant phase of your teen's life.

Neurodivergent Life Skills Toolbox Membership

As part of my commitment to supporting the neurodivergent community, I've created the “Neurodivergent Life Skills Toolbox Membership.” This affordable resource, available for only $9 a month, provides life skills teaching resources designed specifically for neurodivergent individuals. It's a treasure trove of tools, strategies, and insights to aid in the journey through puberty and beyond.

neurodivergent life skills toolbox membership

Additional Resources to Help You Teach About Puberty

Discovering the right resources is key to effectively teaching your child with autism about puberty. Here are some helpful tools:

  • Guides and Kits: ATN/AIR-P Puberty and Adolescence Resource offers comprehensive coverage on the topic. It's particularly useful to get a broad understanding of what to expect and how to approach the subject.
  • Downloadable PDFs: There's a handy Parent’s Guide to Puberty and Adolescence for children with Autism, which is a collaborative effort from parents and professionals. It’s designed to be both intelligent and easy to read, perfect for sharing with anyone supporting an adolescent with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • Educational Toolkits: Turn to the Official Puberty Guide by the American Autism Association. These materials help you frame scenarios comprehensibly and demonstrate appropriate behaviors.
  • Expert Advice: Articles such as “Guiding children with autism through puberty” offer valuable insights from experts, providing strategies and understanding the nuanced needs of children with autism during puberty.

Listed above are some of the best available resources to assist you and your child through this developmental phase. Each offers unique tools and perspectives, so use them to feel empowered and informed about guiding your child on the autism spectrum through puberty.

A Journey of Growth and Understanding

As we guide autistic teens through the onset of puberty and the changes it brings, our goal is to foster a supportive environment that acknowledges and respects their unique experiences as young adults. Whether dealing with sexual urges, social changes, or the development of pubic hair, it's crucial to provide understanding and appropriate support.

This phase, marked by significant physical, emotional, and social changes, can be particularly challenging for autistic individuals and their families. However, with the right knowledge, tools, and support, navigating puberty can be a journey of growth, understanding, and empowerment.

We've explored the unique challenges autistic teens face during puberty and provided strategies for addressing these changes with empathy and respect. From understanding sensory sensitivities to navigating the complexities of social interactions, the journey through puberty requires patience, open communication, and a willingness to learn and adapt.

The role of educational resources, professional guidance, and community support cannot be overstated. Books, websites, and visual tools offer invaluable information and strategies for managing puberty-related challenges. Professionals like healthcare providers and occupational therapists provide specialized support, while community resources and support groups offer a network of understanding and shared experiences.

As parents, caregivers, and professionals, our goal is to empower autistic teens to navigate this significant life stage with confidence and self-awareness. It's a journey that, while challenging, can foster resilience, independence, and a deeper understanding of oneself.

Remember, every autistic individual's experience of puberty is unique. Embrace this journey with an open heart, celebrate small victories, and always strive for an environment of understanding and acceptance.

autism and puberty

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: How can I help my autistic teen understand the physical changes of puberty?

A: Use clear, straightforward language and visual aids to explain physical changes. Books and online resources tailored for autistic teens can also be helpful.

Q: What strategies can assist in managing sensory sensitivities during puberty?
A: Gradually introduce new hygiene routines, use sensory-friendly products, and provide a safe space for your teen to express discomfort or anxiety.

Q: How can I support my autistic teen's emotional and social development during puberty?
A: Teach self-regulation skills, provide opportunities for social interaction in a supportive environment, and use social stories to explain complex social dynamics.

Q: Are there specific resources or support groups for parents of autistic teens?
A: Yes, there are many online forums, local community groups, and organizations that offer resources and support for parents.

Q: What role do schools play in supporting autistic teens through puberty?
A: Schools can provide individualized education plans, social skills training, and a supportive learning environment to address the needs of autistic teens during puberty.

Help Teach Toothbrushing with Task Analysis to Break the Steps Down

Help Teach Toothbrushing with Task Analysis to Break the Steps Down

Learn how to get your free toothbrushing task analysis to help teach the skill of brushing teeth.

Toothbrushing is an important part of maintaining good oral hygiene and overall health.

Toothbrushing can be an overwhelming and hard skill to learn especially if they have sensory issues with brushing teeth.

Breaking the skill down and finding appropriate sensory strategies can help.

What is Task Analysis

Task Analysis is a systematic approach used to break down a task into smaller, more manageable components. This can help to define the sequence of steps needed to complete the task, and identify any potential problems or risks associated with the task. It can also be used to identify any skills or knowledge required to complete the task. Task Analysis can be used in a range of fields including education, engineering, psychology, and business.

How Can you use Task Analysis to Teach Toothbrushing?

Task analysis is a great way to teach any complex skill, including tooth brushing. First, break the task down into its component parts. For tooth brushing, this might include picking out a toothbrush, putting toothpaste on the brush, wetting the brush, brushing each quadrant of the mouth, etc. Then, provide a step-by-step demonstration of each part of the task. After the demonstration, have your student practice each step, giving gentle reminders and feedback as needed. Lastly, have your student practice the full task of brushing their teeth, with you providing encouragement and feedback. This process can be repeated as needed until your student has mastered the skill.

A Simple Toothbrushing Task Analysis Example

To help you understand the toothbrushing task, I will provide a step-by-step analysis.

  1. Gather your toothbrush and toothpaste.
  2. Wet your toothbrush and put a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the bristles.
  3. Start brushing at the gum line using a gentle circular motion.
  4. Brush the outer and inner surfaces of the teeth.
  5. Don’t forget to brush the chewing surface of your teeth.
  6. To clean the inside of your front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several gentle up-and-down strokes.
  7. Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
  8. Rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash.
  9. Spit out the water or mouthwash and store your toothbrush in a clean, dry place.

Get your Free Toothbrushing Task Analysis Checklist

In less than 5 minutes you can get your free toothbrushing task analysis already written out for you in a step by step process to save you time and to teach the skill of brushing teeth.

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Helpful Strategies for Toothbrushing

Toothbrushing can sometimes be an overwhelming experience for some individuals, so it can be helpful to incorporate some sensory strategies to make the process easier. Here are some ideas to make toothbrushing more enjoyable and effective:

  1. Use a timer. Setting a timer for two minutes can help them know when the toothbrushing session is over. 
  2. Provide a variety of toothbrushes. Offering different textures, shapes, and sizes of toothbrushes can make the experience more exciting and fun.
  3. Use musical brushing. Playing music while brushing can help them focus on the task and even encourage them to brush longer. 
  4. Watch a video or use a toothbrushing app to distract or make it more interactive.
  5. Use flavored toothpaste. Toothpaste with interesting flavors, such as bubble gum or fruity flavors, can make brushing more enjoyable. 

Check out these Fun Flavored Toothpastes

Chocolate Ice Cream flavored toothpaste

Vanilla Ice Cream flavored toothpaste

Orange Ooh La La Flavored Toothpaste

Other Awesome Personal Hygiene Resources

Toothbrushing and Flossing Toolkit to help you teach toothbrushing and flossing with step by step instructions, visual sequencing, and data collection.

Teach Taking a Shower and Bathing to Autistic Teenagers

Get your Free Toothbrushing Task Analysis Checklist

In less than 5 minutes you can get your free toothbrushing task analysis already written out for you in a step by step process to save you time and to teach the skill of brushing teeth.

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Use these Sensory Friendly Autism Showering Products to Help make Showering Easier

Use these Sensory Friendly Autism Showering Products to Help make Showering Easier

*Learn about these sensory friendly autism showering products to help make showering easier for them and improve their quality of life and independence.

The body odor and greasy matted hair show  your teenager has gone days without showering. Again. Cringing, you brace yourself for the dreaded battle if you dare intervene. But if you don’t speak up? You worry your teen will sit alone in the cafeteria or be ridiculed by cruel peers. You need to figure out a way to help them care for their body. 

The teenage years bring about a lot of changes and new experiences and one big change is going through puberty and having an understanding of changes occuring in the body. 

Not all autistic teens will have difficulty with personal hygiene care skills, but for some it can bring on new stress and anxiety with learning a new self care routine or how to care for their body in a different way. They may have difficulty understanding why these changes are happening or some of the social situations as to why they need to make these changes. 

autism showering sensory product ideas. Boy looking down and feeling embarrassed.

Why Taking a Shower May be Difficult for Them

  • Sensory Sensitivities to the feeling of water on their body and feeling wet
  • Difficulty understanding why we need to shower
  • Being dirty and having oily hair doesn’t bother them
  • The change in temperature of getting in the shower may bother them
  • They may have difficulty with balance and coordination with standing in the water 
  • Getting dressed after showering their skin may feel like it hurts
  • Taking a shower takes so much energy
  • Taking a shower is sensory overload
  • The smells of the shampoo, conditioner, body wash

There are a lot of reasons why taking a shower may be hard for them… Just be willing to listen to them and work together to help them figure out how to take a shower.

What can you do to help?

Have an understanding and patience that this skill is hard for them. Be there to support them and help find ways that work for them to learn the skill.

I have put together a list of products that may help you adapt how to take a shower in order to make it a little easier for them.

Use these Sensory Friendly Autism Showering Products to help make Showering Easier

*This post contains affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you, but if you purchase through our link we will receive a comission. 

Take a look at these sensory friendly autism showering products to help make showering easier for them and improve their quality of life.

  • A shower dispenser for the soap can help make it easier to get the soap out to use. They just have to push a button to get the soap out and this may help them identify better between body wash, shampoo, and conditioner.
  • A color changing shower head for the correct water temperature. This may be helpful for someone who has difficulty regulating the temperature of the water on their own.
  • Color changing smart light that is color coded with the color lables on the soap dispenser. You can set up the color chaning smart light to be the same colors as the color labels on the soap dispenser and set each color for a certain amount of time. This will give an additional visual cue as to when to go to the next step. This way they aren’t standing under the shower for a long time without washing their body and letting the water get cold.
  • Swim Goggles may be helpful for someone who has difficulty getting their eyes wet while in the shower.
  • Ear plugs may be helpful for someone with sensitivity to the sounds in the shower.
  • A long handled sponge to help reach the back or lower legs and feet while showering.
  • A reclinging hair salon chair may be helpful to set up at a sink to wash their hair if they have difficulty washing their hair by themselves in the shower. Especially if they are older and are wanting more privacy in the shower.

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These are additional ideas that are helpful for in between showers to help keep their body clean.

  • Dry Shampoo
  • Face wipes to wash the face
  • Adult wash cloths to wash the body
  • Deodorant
  • Washing hair at the sink
  • Taking a sponge bath

Are you looking for additional tools and strategies to add to your toolbox to help your autistic teen or young adult learn how to shower?

Wouldn’t it be nice to help your teen or young adult learn how to shower more independently and to care for their body?

Check out our Taking a Shower Bundle

In this bundle, I give you tons of practical tools and resources to help you teach your teen or young adult how to shower. I give you specific strategies to teach each step of taking a shower, sensory adaptaitons, how to set up the bathroom for success, and TONS of tools to help you teach the skill. I use real life pictures of teen boys or teen girls to help them have a visual for each step.

Additional Autism Showering Resources to Help You

How to Teach Teenagers with Autism Personal Hygiene Self-Care Tasks

Tips to Improve Showering and Bathing for Children with Sensory Processing Difficulties

How to Teach Teenagers with Autism How to Shower and Bathe

The Mega Bundle of Functional Life Skills Resources for Teens and Adults

Your Turn

What strategies or products have you found that work to make taking a shower easier? Let me know in the comments below.

Products to help increase independence with taking a shower
Sensory Issues with Showering: Solutions and Strategies

Sensory Issues with Showering: Solutions and Strategies

In this post, you will get help with sensory issues with showering by helping you find strategies and resources to help you.

Taking baths and showers can be challenging for some people, particularly when they have difficulty dealing with water touching their face or getting in their eyes. This issue may stem from sensory processing difficulties that cause anxiety and fear in these situations. Overcoming these challenges is crucial to empower independence in a person's self-care routine. In this article, we will explore tips and strategies that have been effective in helping individuals feel more comfortable and at ease while taking baths or showers.

Throughout the years, people have discovered various techniques that enable them to decrease anxiety associated with water on their face. By sharing these approaches, it is hoped that you, or your loved ones, can develop a better understanding of the issue and find ways to overcome the challenges that come with sensory processing difficulties related to hygiene practices.

Key Takeaways

  • Sensory processing difficulties can make bathing and showering uncomfortable for some individuals
  • There are several tips and strategies that can help minimize anxiety and fear related to water and hygiene
  • Increasing independence in self-care routines can be achieved by understanding and addressing sensory issues

*This post may contain affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you, but if you purchase something through our links, this will greatly help our family. Please read more about our disclosure here.

Sensory Issues with Showering and Bathing

When it comes to showering and bathing, some individuals may experience sensory challenges. If you or someone you know has these difficulties, understanding the issues at hand is important. Below, we'll discuss some of the common sensory problems people may encounter during their bathing routine.

  • Water Sensitivity: For some, the sensation of water hitting the skin can be overwhelming, causing anxiety. A rain showerhead may help by distributing water more gently on the skin.
  • Temperature: Finding the right water temperature is crucial, as some people may be particularly sensitive to hot or cold water.
  • Touch: Items like bath sponges, towels, or even soap may cause discomfort due to their texture. It's often helpful to try various products to find the one that suits your needs best.
  • Sound: The noise from running water can be bothersome to some. To alleviate this issue, consider using background noise, such as soft music or white noise machines, to mask the sound.
  • Smell: Scented bath products can be overwhelming for those with sensory sensitivities. Opt for fragrance-free options to minimize this issue.

By understanding these sensory challenges and implementing strategies, you can create a more comfortable showering and bathing experience for yourself or others who may be facing similar difficulties.

What are Common Sensory Issues with Showering and Bathing?

Showering and bathing can sometimes be challenging for individuals with sensory sensitivities. Here is a list of common sensory issues that might occur during showering and bathing:

  • Water Temperature: Sudden changes in water temperature or water that is too hot or too cold can cause discomfort.
  • Water Pressure: High water pressure can feel overwhelming, while low pressure might not provide enough stimulation for some individuals.
  • Sound: The noise of the running water or the echo in the bathroom can lead to auditory sensitivities.
  • Light: Bright bathroom lights or the glare from wet surfaces can create visual sensitivities.
  • Touch: The sensation of water hitting the skin, slippery surfaces, or the texture of bath products might cause tactile sensitivities.

To help individuals with sensory issues, try these strategies:

  • Gradually introduce changes in water temperature and pressure.
  • Use a showerhead with adjustable pressure to suit personal preferences.
  • Consider using a white noise machine or calming music to help mask bathroom sounds.
  • Adjust the lighting in the bathroom, or use dimmable lights for optimal comfort.
  • Offer them gentle bath products and soft washcloths to minimize tactile sensitivities.

By understanding these issues and making small adjustments, you can help make showering and bathing a more enjoyable experience for those with sensory sensitivities.

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Click HERE or on the image below to get the FREE Life Skills Curriculum Year at a Glance Plan full of teaching ideas for each month!

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Why Does My Child Have Sensory Issues with Showering and Bathing?

Sensory issues with showering and bathing can be a common concern for children who have sensory processing difficulties or are on the autism spectrum. Here's what might be causing these challenges:

  • Water temperature: Some children are more sensitive to temperature, so even a slight difference in water temperature can cause discomfort.
  • Water pressure: High water pressure can be overwhelming or uncomfortable for a child who struggles with sensory processing.
  • Unexpected sensations: Getting wet or feeling water running down their face and body may be unexpected and distressing for children with sensory issues.
  • Sounds: Loud or sudden noises, like the sound of running water or a fan, can be startling or overwhelming for children sensitive to auditory stimuli.

To help your child with sensory issues around showering and bathing, consider the following strategies:

  • Create a predictable routine around bath or shower time, so your child knows what to expect and can better prepare for the sensations involved1.
  • Adjust the water temperature and pressure to better suit your child's preferences2.
  • Offer distractions, such as toys or calming music, to help your child focus on something other than the sensory aspects of bathing3.
  • Be patient and listen to your child's concerns or fears. Encourage them to communicate their feelings and take it one step at a time. Work together to find a solution that works best for them and ensures they feel comfortable and safe during bath time4.

Remember that each child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Keep trying different approaches to find the most effective solution for your child.

shower on in the bathroom


  1. Sensory Processing Hub 
  2. Tips to Improve Showering and Bathing for Children with Sensory Processing Difficulties 
  3. Simple Ways to Make Bath Time a Splash with Sensory Issues 
  4. Autism and Showering: How to Help Your Child 

How Can I Help Make Showering Easier for Them?

Showering can be a challenging experience for individuals with sensory issues. Here are some friendly tips on how you can make the showering process easier and more comfortable for them.

  • Adjust the water temperature: Finding the right water temperature is essential. Test the water before they step in and adjust it to a comfortable, warm temperature that isn't too hot or too cold.
  • Use a handheld showerhead: A handheld showerhead can provide more control over water pressure and direction. This can reduce feelings of overwhelm for individuals with sensory issues.
  • Create a calming environment: Choose soft lighting and play soothing music or nature sounds to help set a relaxing atmosphere during shower time.
  • Introduce sensory-friendly products: Use mild, unscented soaps and shampoos that won't irritate their skin or senses. You can find sensory-friendly showering products designed for individuals with sensory issues.
  • Offer a soft, non-slip bath mat: A cushioned, non-slip bath mat can provide additional comfort and safety during showering.
  • Gradually introduce new sensations: Introduce textures, scents, and water pressures gradually to help them become more comfortable with the whole showering experience.
  • Develop a routine: Establish a predictable sequence of steps for showering so they know what to expect each time. Consistency can make the process more manageable.

By implementing these tips, you can help make showering a more pleasant experience for individuals with sensory issues and promote a positive approach to personal hygiene. Remember to be patient and understanding as they adapt to these changes.

Strategies to Help with Sensory Issues for Showering and Bathing

Ways to Reduce Anxiety When Water Touches a Child's Face with Sensory Processing Difficulties

  • Gradually introduce water to the face by using a wet washcloth
  • Allow the child to control the amount of water on their face by using a spray bottle
  • Use a fun shower visor to prevent water from getting in their eyes

Techniques to Assist with Water on the Face

  • Practice blowing bubbles in a bowl of water to help the child become more comfortable with water on their face
  • Encourage the child to close their eyes and slowly lower their face into the water in a controlled manner
  • Praise the child for any progress they make in tolerating water on their face

Gradual Desensitization for Fear of Water on the Face

  • Start by placing a small amount of water on the child's face and gradually increase as they become more comfortable
  • Introduce water play activities outside of the bathroom to create a more relaxed environment

Tips to Manage Shower and Bathroom Temperatures

  • Ensure the bathroom is warm enough to avoid discomfort
  • Use a thermometer to gauge water temperature and adjust accordingly
  • Allow the child to feel the water before getting in to build their trust with temperature

Guidance for Washing the Body and Hair

  • Offer textured washcloths and brushes to provide a variety of sensory experiences
  • Use a handheld showerhead to give the child control over the direction of the water flow
  • Use gentle, unscented products to avoid irritation
showering help, neurodivergent life skills toolbox

Ways to Teach Face Washing Independently

  • Guide the child's hand through the process, demonstrating the sequence of washing, rinsing, and drying
  • Use visual aids or a social story to explain the steps in a friendly manner
  • Encourage the child to practice the steps with minimal assistance

Methods to Encourage Independent Showering

  • Create a visual schedule with pictures and simple instructions for the shower routine
  • Gradually reduce the level of assistance provided as the child builds their showering skills
  • Praise each successful step the child takes towards independence

Dry Off Techniques

  • Offer a variety of towel textures and let the child choose their preference
  • Encourage the child to pat their body dry first before using a towel to remove any excess water

Steps to Simplify the Shower or Bath Process

  • Break down the process into smaller, manageable steps using visual aids or social stories
  • Use a timer or a favorite song to help the child understand the length of shower time
  • Encourage independence by promoting self-care practices, such as turning faucets on and off and applying shampoo

Additional Anxiety-Reducing Approaches

  • Dim the lights to create a calming atmosphere
  • Play soft, gentle music to help relax the child
  • Allocate a designated, consistent time each day for showering or bathing to create a comfortable routine

Evidence-Based Resources to Help with Sensory Issues and Showering

Facing sensory challenges while showering can be overwhelming, but luckily there are evidence-based resources and strategies to help you out. Here are some helpful ideas to improve your showering experience:

  • Visual supports: Make use of visual aids, such as picture schedules or social stories, to provide a clear understanding of the showering process.
  • Adjust water temperature: Sensitivity to water temperature is common in individuals with sensory issues. Adjusting the water temperature to a comfortable level can help reduce anxiety.
  • Use calming lighting: Bright lights can contribute to sensory overload. Try using dimmer lights, setting up colored lights, or even using glow sticks to create a more calming atmosphere in the bathroom.
  • Reduce noise: Consider using a showerhead with a more controlled flow or lower pressure. You can also try adding soft background music or white noise to help counteract the sound of the water.
  • Choose appropriate shower products: Select gentle, fragrance-free soaps and shampoos designed for sensitive skin to minimize potential irritants.
  • Start with small adjustments: If showering is overwhelming, start with small steps. You can use a washcloth to gently wipe your body, gradually adding more water and eventually adjusting the flow of the showerhead.

By incorporating these helpful strategies and resources into your shower routine, you can create a more relaxed and comfortable showering experience for yourself. Remember, take it one step at a time and be patient as you find what works best for you.

Resources to Help with Sensory Issues and Showering

To address sensory challenges during showering, there are various resources and techniques that can help. Here are some useful tips and tools to assist you in creating a more comfortable showering experience:

  • Create a calming environment: Use dim lighting or LED color-changing lights to modify the shower atmosphere. Soft music or white noise can also help drown out potentially overwhelming water sounds.
  • Visual schedules: For individuals with autism or sensory processing difficulties, visual supports such as picture schedules or social stories can clarify and ease the showering process.
  • Water temperature: Adjusting the shower's water temperature to a comfortable level can reduce anxiety associated with sensory triggers.
  • Gentle water flow: Switch to a showerhead with adjustable pressure, so you can use a gentle water flow that's soothing rather than overwhelming.
  • Non-slip bath mats: For people with postural or motor planning difficulties, non-slip bath mats can improve stability and reduce anxiety caused by slippery shower surfaces.
  • Fun bath accessories: Incorporate playful shower toys, themed shower curtains, or colorful sponges to help make bath time more enjoyable and less stressful.

Remember, the key is to identify sensory triggers, adapt the environment accordingly, and implement resources to create a more positive showering experience.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can autistic adults create a comfortable shower routine?

To establish a comfortable shower routine, it's essential to consider unique sensory needs. You can create a sensory-friendly environment by using soft lighting, adding familiar and preferred towels and bath products, and incorporating calming elements such as scented candles or essential oils. Gradually introduce a routine and stick to it, ensuring that all steps are understood and manageable.

What strategies help manage sensory processing disorder during hygiene activities?

For individuals with sensory processing disorder, consider the following strategies:

  • Make gradual changes to routines, allowing time for adaptation.
  • Use noise-dampening materials or quieter showerheads to reduce the sound of running water.
  • Introduce alternative cleaning methods, such as using a washcloth or sponge instead of direct water contact.
  • Provide positive reinforcement and rewards for successful completion of hygiene tasks.

Which showerheads are suitable for those with sensory sensitivities?

Consider using quieter showerheads that disperse water gently to reduce sensory overload. Additionally, showerheads with adjustable flow settings can help individuals find the most comfortable water pressure for their needs.

How can one cope with discomfort from water on the face?

To cope with water discomfort, try the following:

  • Use a washcloth or sponge to gently clean your face.
  • Close your eyes and cover your nose and mouth when rinsing.
  • Practice breathing exercises to remain calm during face rinsing.

Is soap sensitivity common, and what can be done about it?

Sensory issues with soap can be common. To overcome this:

  • Experiment with different soap textures, such as liquid, bar, or foam soaps.
  • Dilute soap with water to lessen its impact.
  • Opt for fragrance-free and hypoallergenic products to reduce irritation.

How can showering be made a more enjoyable experience for those with sensory preferences?

Some techniques to enhance the showering experience include:

  • Adding soothing music or white noise to mask the sound of running water.
  • Using soft, non-abrasive bathing items like silicone brushes or sponges.
  • Introducing aromatherapy with essential oils or choosing mild-scented bath products.
  • Customizing the water temperature to match individual preferences.

How we Helped My Brother with Sensory Sensitivities with Showering and Bathing

My brother has always had a difficult time with taking baths and showers because he hated having water get on his face or in his eyes. Don't get me wrong he loved being in the water, but as soon as he would be splashed in the face in the pool or we would have to go to wash his hair in the bath, a flood of anxiety and fear would come over him. He has had this difficulty ever since he was little and he is still learning to decrease his anxiety with water on his face. It wasn't until this year that he has now been able to wash his face and hair more independently (14 years later). We wanted to share the tips and tricks that we have used to help my brother decrease his anxiety with water getting on his face to allow him to be more independent with these skills.

Tips to Decrease Anxiety with Water Getting on the Face for a Child with Sensory Processing Difficulties

What we did first was recognize this was a fear for my brother and we were always patient and understanding with him. Something that my mother has been working on this past year with my brother is working on identifying what his fears are and understanding that fear is an emotion. These emotions can come from what you are thinking, and they have been working on changing his thinking to a positive thought to help him create a solution. So for example, before taking a shower or washing his face at the sink they would state positive statements about putting water on his face. They would say, “I will be able to get my face wet or I am calm and I can do this.”

showering help, neurodivergent life skills toolbox membership

These were ways that we were slowly able to decrease fear for my brother with getting water on his face.

He was very motivated to go swimming, so during the summer we were constantly at the pool, going to water parks, or playing outside in the sprinkler. He was usually having so much fun during these activities that when he would get water on his face we would always make sure we had a beach towel near by or he would wear a swim shirt that he could use to help wipe off the water on his face to help decrease his anxiety. We were constantly exposing him to activities that were motivating to him where he would be exposed to water on his body.

Other fun ways we would expose him to water were through water balloon fights and using a bubble machine outside with bubbles popping around him. Again, we would always have a towel near by him, but during the activities he was happy and excited having fun!

When we were swimming in the pool, we would constantly be trying to teach him how to hold his breath or blow out of his nose when he would go under water. As well as closing his eyes under water. We would play games to help motivate him to make it more fun. We would always demonstrate for him so he could see how to do it. We would try to make it motivating and be super excited over the top if just the littlest bit of his face touch the water such as his chin. We would give tons and tons of praise and encouragement.

It took us many many years for him to be more comfortable with getting his face wet in the pool, but we never gave up. Even today he still does not prefer to go underwater and we are still working on learning how to swim, but every year we are making progress. We learn to celebrate every little victory along the way.

Now this year, we have been working really hard with being independent with showering and washing our face. Now that we are going through puberty we also get to work on these skills to help us prevent breakouts. We started a new acne medicine for our face this year, so that has also helped increase the motivation for my brother to want to learn the skill so he can decrease the acne. My mother has learned to be so patient with him in helping him learn these skills.

These are ways that we have helped him learn to wash his face on his own:

  • He used a face mist blower (something he liked) to help him get used to the feeling of water on his face.
  • He would wash his face at the sink with just a wet wash cloth (my mother would have to do it first, then she would have him slowly increase his ability to use the wash cloth himself)
  • They slowly increased splashing water on his face by getting his hands wet and having him touch his face then slowly add more water over time.
  • Finally, they had him get in the shower and use a wash cloth in the shower to wash his face.
  • NOTE: He would always have a dry wash cloth or towel right next to him so that he could dry his face off if it was too much for him.
  • This was a very long process and took a lot of patience and practice. We think it went better for him this year because he was motivated to get rid of the acne on his face.

These are ways that we helped him learn to shower more independently:

  • In the beginning my mom would be in the bathroom and available for him if he needed anything, this helped to decrease the anxiety.
  • We first talked about the importance of why we need to take a shower and how we need to smell good when we are around other people. This was the first year that he has ever mentioned that he wants to get married (over the past two years my sister and I both got married and he realized that he would need to get married if he wants to carry our families last name). So my mom would make sure to talk about how if he wants to get a girl friend he needs to smell nice and this has been motivating to him.
  • When they were at the dermatologist, my mother had the doctor explain the importance of showering and washing our face to him, which had a bigger impact on him then my mom telling him that. He seems to do well with taking advice from doctors.
  • While my brother was taking the shower there was always a towel available hanging over the edge of the shower.
  • To wash his hair, my mom would use a large cup and place a was cloth over his face and he would tilt his head back and let my mom wash his hair for him. They would slowly transition away from this by having him participate more with washing his hair and having him do more of it on his own, such as having him put the shampoo in or slowly pour some water on his head.
  • Washing his hair is something he has always had a really hard time with and he still needs help at times from my mom to help him, but he is doing so much more of it on his own! He will be doing it on his own in no time!
  • Also they learned that he does better with taking a shower night before going to bed as the warm water helps him go to sleep. Try to figure out the best time of day that works for your child.

Here are some other strategies that we have used over the years to help decrease anxiety as well:

  • Installing a “rain” shower head
  • Installing a handheld shower nozzle to give him a sense of control
  • Sometimes we would just take a bath
  • Warm up the bathroom ahead of time to make the temperature change less dramatic
  • Play music while in the shower or bath for fun and a distraction
  • Have fun bath toys in the shower or bath tub
  • Mr. Bubbles foam soap for fun in the bath
  • Using a schedule and sticking to it. When we figured out a night time routine worked well we have been sticking with it.
  • We would sometimes use baby wipes to help clean off at times
  • We have heard dry shampoo can be helpful
  • When we used a wash cloth or shampooing his hair we tried to use slow deep pressure. Slow deep pressure is more organizing than light touch.
  • Finding soap products that they like (some kids prefer scents and some prefer no scents) Allow them to participate in picking out the soaps to give them more independence.
  • Use motivators whenever possible. We were constantly trying to figure out what motivated my brother to help make it more fun and turn it into a goal that he wanted to meet!

We hope that these tips and suggestions can be helpful for you and your family to help make bathing a better routine for everyone. As a family we are always working on this skill and taking it day by day and celebrating every little victory. We would love to learn if you have more suggestions that have worked for your family!

Does your child or teen struggle with personal hygiene skills due to sensory challenges?

Check out our free Personal Hygiene Sensory Strategies Toolkit for help!

Personal Hygiene Sensory Strategies Toolkit #sensory
Showering and Bathing Tips for Children with Sensory Processing Difficulties

Does your child have difficulty learning personal hygiene self care skills? Check out our Ebook Everyday Life Skills Personal Hygiene Skills in the Bathroom for TONS of tips and resources to help your loved one become more independent with these skills!