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

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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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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.”

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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!

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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!