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 teenagers with autism 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.
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.
*This post contains affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you, but if you purchase through our link we will receive a comission.
- 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.
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
- 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.
What strategies or products have you found to be helpful when teaching your teen or young adult how to take a shower? Share in the comments below!
Free Resources for Teaching Personal Hygiene Cares
I get so many questions about how to help with personal hygiene cares and I wanted to put together a list of FREE resources available for you to look at and use. Below you will find a list of FREE Resources and Videos available for you to help teach these skills for individuals with autism.
Free Sensory Strategies Personal Hygiene Cares Toolkit
Before you check out the other free resources below you should check out our FREE Sensory Strategies for Personal Hygiene Cares Toolkit!
Free Personal Hygiene Resources!
Free Washing My Hands Visual Sequencing Cards by Learning for a Purpose at Teachers Pay Teachers
Personal Hygiene and Teenagers with Auitsm Spectrum Disorder by raisingchildren.net.au
Personal Hygiene Teaching Resources for Special Needs Students by galleonsupplies.co.uk
A Free Social Story about Taking Care of Myself by Katie Peterson at Teachers Pay Teachers
Free Social Stories for supporting Personal Hygiene and Self-Care Skills at tes.com
A Free Social Story about Boogers by Occupational Therapy Resources by Allison at Teachers Pay Teachers
Washing My Hands Adapted Book by Chalkboard Superhero at Teachers Pay Teachers
Teaching Personal Hygiene to Children with Auitsm-Free visual story by Autism Spectrum Teacher
Are you looking for additional help and strategies to help teach life skills to individuals with autism? Check out our new online course Learning Life Skills for a Purpose! We will teach you the step by step process of how to use task analysis and visual supports to help teach life skills to children, teens, and adults with autism. Plus we give you step by step resources to help get you started with specific skills!
You can learn more about the course here!
Check out the amazing resources you get when you enroll in the course!
Below is a list of Free videos you can find on YouTube about Personal Hygiene Cares
Ending the Hygiene Struggle by Asperger Experts on YouTube
Video Explaining Hygiene Help for Autism Spectrum Children and Teens by Barbara Lester on YouTube
Tips for Personal Hygiene-Real Life Tips for Kids with Autism by Children’s Specialized Hospital on YouTube
Teens and Hygiene From Autism Spectrum Therapies on YouTube
Teaching Personal Hygiene-Life Skills by Jacob Vlogs on YouTube
Let me know in the comments below if these were helpful for you, or if there are some other resources I should add.
HOW CAN PARENTS HELP THEIR CHILDREN LEARN LIFE SKILLS?
Understand that when we are trying to learn something new there can be a lot of frustration for the child and for you as a parent. Know that it may take your child longer to learn something then it did for you or for your other children. We all learn at different speeds and with different learning styles. Keep in mind that every child is unique and will take love, guidance, and support from you as the parent.
TIPS ON HOW TO STAY CALM:
- First is to BREATHE, this may seem simple, but slow deep breaths can calm the body.
- LET GO. Let go of your frustrations and various failures in the past. This is a new journey today and we need to learn to let go of things that have happened in the past.
- Look at the Big Picture. Envision the end result for your child of the end goal of helping them to be independent with that specific skill.
- Enjoy the journey and the process for the opportunity to help teach and raise your child. Your child looks up to your for support and guidance and these are the little moments in life when you get to be a parent and share these experiences together.
- Try to practice the skill during times when you know you will be less stressed as a parent. If you have big life events going on and you don’t have the time to spend working on the skill with your child, maybe now is not the time to start a new skill
- Do not picture perfection when teaching this skill. As the parent you will make mistakes as well as your child. Enjoy the process and learn from everyone’s mistakes.
HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD STAY CALM WHEN TEACHING THEM A NEW SKILL:
COMMUNICATE WITH THEM WHAT YOU ARE WANTING
Be specific in what we are going to be working on. Let them know we are going to work on a specific skill together, so they understand what they will be doing.
SET UP A CALM TRANSITION
Help your child transition from whatever they are doing to working on this skill with kind words and positive energy. When we are using positive words with our children they can feel safer and enjoy the activity better.
LEAVE TIME FOR THE TRANSITION
Some people need to know ahead of time that the activity is coming. It can be calming to some people and it can create anxiety for others. It might mean that you say in 10 minutes it will be time to brush your teeth. For someone else it might be a timer that runs out. For some it works best it nothing is said ahead of time and you just go do the activity when it’s time. Transitions can look different for each individual.
BE RESPECTFUL AT THE TRANSITION TIME
Try to imagine if you were in charge of when your spouse needed to take a shower or brush their teeth. Would you say, “Go brush your teeth!” How well do you think they would respond? Think what you would need to say to them that would create them to want to do that activity. If your child is watching TV you might say, “At the next commercial, it will be time to brush your teeth.” When your child is sensitive to transition times then creating a closure to their activity and stating what needs to be done in a respectful way will be helpful to their emotional needs.
SOUND CALM AND HAPPY WHEN IT’S TIME TO GO AND DURING THE ACTIVITY
How you act and sound can state if this activity will be fun or unpleasant. It’s important that you act and sound like what you are about to do together is something good. Learn to enjoy working together. How you respond can make or break the situation. Before you get started put in your mind that this will be fun and just enjoy and love your child. When you put on a smile it helps you and your child to enjoy the activity. You don’t really have control on how fast your child is going to learn something, but you do have control on just enjoying the moment.
SAY POSITIVE THINGS TO YOUR CHILD
When we say encouraging words to our child it promotes confidence and it moves both of us in a better direction. It speaks to acceptance, respectfulness, trust, love, kindness, understanding, and success. You’re giving life to the good and promoting the activity to be seen with love. They get to know that you’re expressing the good in what you see and that you’re not a faultfinder. You are not emphasizing the things that they need to do better, because they don’t like to make mistakes. Mistakes can be the reason they don’t want to do the activity in the first place. Everyone wants to be recognized for what they are doing right. When you are helping them, you become an extension to them. So they are going to want the other part of them to be for them and not against them.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY!
Keep in mind that what you say is not always understood or even heard by your child. If they are thinking and trying to do something, they may not be able to hear you. They may not understand body language or your tone. If you feel a little frustrated and you think your child should pick up on that, they may not have that ability to read that on your body language or the tone of your speech. It’s best to keep frustration away from these skills, because it creates confusion for your child and slows down the process.
Your child wants to express things to you as well, but the ability to communicate effectively can get in the way of progress. If your child wants a wash cloth and they don’t know how to say that and you don’t know what they need, then it’s hard to accomplish the goal. Some people want to use their hands to communicate instead of their voice. Sometimes they can talk, but they want to rely on their hand pounding on something that is supposed to get your attention to know what they want. However the two of you communicate, the important part is that you both understand each other. There are times where your child needs you to give them some wait time to process information. It’s easier to guide a person from one specific part of an activity to another, but sometimes they need us to give them time to start it by themselves. That might mean that you’re standing there waiting for them to get started with the next part. Sometimes they get stuck or you can see their anxiety rising, so those wouldn’t be times when you would wait for them to move onto the next part. Anxiety or frustration isn’t what you want to see during the life skills process. Try to create a flow that’s theirs and realize that it’s going to look different then how you would do it. Allow for their strengths and individuality to come out.
Are you looking for a way to help teach your child or teen with autism personal hygiene skills? Check out our ebook Everyday Life Skills Personal Hygiene Cares in the Bathroom!
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!
Check out our FREE task analysis charts to help you break down the personal hygiene skills as you teach them to your child.
Are you looking for more help with teaching your teen life skills to help them as they transition into adulthood? Check out our Life Skills Checklist to help you understand what skills to help teach your teen to help their transition into adulthood!
WHAT CAN WE DO AS PARENTS TO HELP OUR CHILDREN WITH THEIR SENSORY PROCESSING NEEDS FOR PERSONAL HYGIENE CARES FOR SOUND SENSITIVITIES?
*This post contains affiliate links. When you use this link to buy, we get a portion of the fee, at no cost to you. Please see our disclosure statement for further details.
Some children and adults can have sensitive hearing that may affect their ability to complete personal hygiene self care skills in the bathroom. They may experience ear pain during certain tasks such as the toilet flushing or hearing the hand dryer. How can we help in these situations?
Set up an environment that moves in a positive direction for their sensory system. If the child is sensitive to sound then don’t spend time in loud situations or not for very long and have places in your house that work well for someone that is sensitive to sound. Chose activities where sound isn’t an issue. Realize that some days they will be more sensitive than other days and noise may not affect them as much when the activity is highly motivating to them. Let them regulate the sound. Have hearing checked when it’s appropriate and finding professionals that help with sound sensitivities like occupational therapists or audiologists. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns with your child’s ears.
WAYS TO HELP THE CHLD COPE WITH SOUND SENSITIVITIES:
- Give them Advance Warning that a situation may be noisy
- Help them find a place in the bathroom away from the noisy areas. Remind them about self flushing toilets or automatic hand dryers
- Find ways to help muffle the sounds that affect them. Try over the ear headphones or ear plugs nearby to help, but we do not want to cancel out the sound entirely as this could pose a safety risk.
- Encourage them to use their visual system and focus on what they are seeing. Sometimes it can be hard to discriminate what they are hearing and what is important to listen to. If they can focus on what they are seeing this can help them decide what they are hearing and what is important to listen to.
- Problem solve with other professionals, parents, kids, or teachers. The more we can reach out to others to help our child the more likely we can all help find a solution to help our child. Reaching out for help can help us all think of solutions we may not have thought of on our own.
- Try out new situations and loud situations slowly. If you are going out in public to a new situation, call ahead and find out when they are least busy to help create a more quieter environment. If you are trying out a new situation at home go slowly and explain the new situation to them so they can have an understanding of what to expect.
- Help them learn to advocate for themselves. Help teach them to tell others when the sounds are too loud for them or are upsetting to them. For instance if they are at a friends house and the TV is too loud, teach them how to politely ask them to turn the volume down.
TRY OUT THESE SOUND TOOLS:
- Wearing headphones during tasks that are safe (when water won’t get them wet)
- Try out ear plugs during very noisy situations
- Sometimes a white noise maker on a low setting in the background can help
- Creating a quiet environment in the bathroom (not using hand dryers or flushing the toilet when they are in the room)
- Speak in a quiet tone and do not raise your voice
- Let them use something that is comforting to them during the task. Is there a fidget toy that they enjoy feeling or using that helps calm them?
- Complete deep breathing techniques before beginning the activity to help calm their bodies
- Some people enjoy music and can find this motivating, if they can regulate the sound of the music you could try playing different motivating songs when completing tasks.
- They may also be motivated to earn music or games such as an I Tunes Gift card, Amazon Gift card, or Steam Gift card for completing tasks.
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EXAMPLES OF SOUNDS THAT COULD BE MORE DISTRACTING IN THEIR ENVIRONMENT
- People noise especially where 2 or more conversations are taking place
- Person in one room is talking and another person talking in the next room
- Someone walking around the room when someone is talking to you
- A fly buzzing around
- Washing machine and dryer
- Dish washer
- Air conditioning and heat vent
- Dog or cat
- Taking dishes out of the dishwasher
- All the noises when driving in a vehicle
ARE YOU LOOKING FOR ADDITIONAL HELP WITH PERSONAL HYGIENE SKILLS? CHECK OUT OUR EVERYDAY LIFE SKILLS PERSONAL HYGIENE SKILLS IN THE BATHROOM EBOOK.
This ebook can help you teach your child how to shower, take a bath, wash their face, brush their teeth, brush their hair, and use the toilet. Plus we provide tons of sensory strategies and behavioral strategies!!
EVERYDAY LIFE SKILLS PERSONAL HYGIENE SKILLS IN THE BATHROOM EBOOK
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!
Are you looking for more help and ideas for life skills for your teenager? Fill out our form below to get your FREE copy of our Life Skills Checklist for Teenagers with Autism for Transitioning into Adulthood!
*This post contains affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you, but will greatly help our family. Please see our disclosure statement for further details.
How to Help your Autistic Teenager Learn how to take a Shower
As a parent, you notice your teen has been struggling to take care of their body. They have greasy hair, bad body odor, and they are growing more hair on their body. You worry that they won’t learn how to take care of themselves and you worry about what other people will think of them.
Your autistic teenager does not like to take a shower and you feel like you have tried everything to help them. You want to make sure they are getting their body clean and respecting their privacy.
Research has shown that one evidence-based strategy for teaching life skills such as showering is by breaking the skill down into smaller steps by using task analysis.
In order to do this, you must think about the skill and then go through each step as you are doing it and write it down. It can be tricky to do this when a skill comes easily to you. You can complete the step in your head or actually go through the steps and you have to really focus on what specific step you are doing to complete the skill.
I wanted to make this easy for you and I have outlined the steps for showering in this free download for you! You can check out the steps for taking a shower here!
It is important to note, that there are a variety of ways you can take a shower and you can complete some of the steps out of order such as the order of how you wash your body. So don’t feel like you only can use those steps that I have outlined for you. Make sure to complete the steps in an order that feels right for the person you are working with.
Get the steps written out for you in this taking a shower steps freebie!
Once you have the steps listed out for how to take a shower, the next thing to do would be to figure out some ideas on how to teach those specific steps.
I wanted to give you some more ideas and tips on how to teach some of those specific steps when it comes to taking a shower.
Another thing to consider is how does the individual you are working with learn information best?
Research has shown that visuals and video modeling can be helpful for individuals with autism to learn new skills.
I have created a toolkit specifically for you to help you teach your autistic teenager or young adult how to take a shower more independently. I give you visuals with real-life photographs of men and women going through the steps of taking a shower. You can check out the Taking a Shower Bundle Here!
Tips on How to Regulate the Water Temperature Before Getting into the Shower or Bathtub
This could be a dangerous skill, make sure a parent is always around when you are working on regulating the temperature of the water. Make sure you are modeling the skill for your child and showing them exactly how to turn on the facet. If you find a consistent temperature that your child likes the water at taking a permanent marker or something to mark where to turn the facet to so they have a visual of where to stop.
If your facet doesn’t have labels or color-coding to understand which way to turn on the facet, you can try to add these. You could try adding blue and red stickers to the faucet to visually show hot and cold.
Try using hand over hand physical cues to help them understand how to turn on the faucet in your shower or bathtub. Practice this skill over and over with an adult present to make sure they do not burn themselves and keep repeating until they understand what temperature to place the faucet at.
Tips on How to Wash the Body while in the Shower or Bathtub
If you feel comfortable doing this you could model how to take a shower for your child with you in your swimming suit for modesty. If not, be there in the bathroom with your child and show them the steps you want them to take with how to get their bodies wet with water, how much soap to use, and then how to rinse off their bodies in the water. Show them exactly how to turn their bodies in the water so they can rinse off their front side, backside, private areas, under their arms, and their head. You can also use a handheld showerhead if that makes it easier for your child to reach the areas of their body to fully rinse off and get wet.
Always make sure they are safe in the shower, especially if their balance is a little shaky. Try adding grab bars to the shower. We recommend getting ones where you can drill them into a stud to make sure they are strong and stable (you may want to hire a contractor for this), but if you need there are suction cup grab bars that you will need to check every time you shower to make sure they are stable and locked. You can also add a nonslip mat at the base of the tube to help with traction.
You can try using a washcloth or loofah while in the shower or bathtub to have put the soap on that to wash off their body if they want something to hold onto while washing their bodies. A bar of soap may be too slippery and just placing body wash in their hand may be difficult for them to lather and be able to spread on their entire body. You can also try a long-handled sponge to reach some of those hard areas like our backs or lower legs as well.
When rinsing off their bodies show them how to look around to see if they see soap bubbles on their bodies anywhere and that means that there is still soap on their bodies and we want to wash all of that off before getting out of the shower.
When washing hair, show them which container is shampoo and which one is conditioner. You can write the numbers 1 or 2 on top to tell them which ones to do first or you could add a rubber band around one of the containers for texture if they have some visual difficulties to let them feel which one is the shampoo and which one is the conditioner. If this is difficult for your child you could always purchase 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner to take away one of the steps. Show them how much to put I their hands and giving them a reference like saying it shouldn’t be larger than a size of a quarter. If this is something they need to practice, purchase some cheap shampoo or conditioner to help them work on the amount of force they need to use to get out the appropriate amount of soap.
Also, show and tell them how wet their hair and body needs to be before putting soap in their hair or body. Have them practice and tell them when that is enough. Also, show them exactly how much to rub onto their bodies or in their hair by doing it for them, and then having them do it with you and slowly you can stop doing it and have them do it more independently.
When they are done washing and rinsing off their bodies, show them exactly how to turn off the water so they can visually see how to do it. You can again use either a permanent marker or a sticker to show where to stop to turn off the faucet.
Tips for Drying the Body Off
Lastly, working on drying off the body thoroughly can be difficult sometimes. You could physically show them how to use the towel to dry off and then either have them start to dry off by themselves or finish for them because we want to make sure they really get dried off. Keep practicing this skill and show them how to reach all areas of their body. You could show them how to dry off either while standing or sitting to make things a little easier. Make sure you are using a towel with a texture that your child likes so they don’t have tactile difficulties. You could try a super soft towel or a quick-drying towel. Another sensory tip, would be if your child likes warm textures, you could use a towel warmer or put the towel in the drier to be warm when they get out of the shower.
During the shower, some individuals may want access to a dry towel or washcloth because they may get soap in their eyes and this can help them feel safer during the shower knowing they can quickly dry their eyes off.
Organizing the Bathroom for Success
How can we set up the bathroom to help our child or teenager to be more independent with bathing?
Assign a specific place for your child to store their showering or bathing supplies. If several of the bottles look alike or are the same shape or size you can add visual differences by writing numbers on them or adding a rubber band or hair tie around the container to differentiate the bottles.
Store the bath towels in an easy-to-reach location and during the shower make sure to keep it in a dry location where it is still within reach to the child or teenager.
If they have vision difficulties make sure to use high contrast colors for items, for example, a white bar of soap is very hard to see against a white tile soap dish. Using high-contrast colors will be easier to see.
Modesty and Privacy
Teaching your teenager modesty and privacy can be huge in keeping them safe. Talk to them about situations where you use public behaviors and private behaviors. Explain why when taking a bath, undressing, touching private parts, or using the toilet is to be done in private. Tell them exactly what types of behaviors are acceptable to do in front of others.
I have created a toolkit specifically for you to help you teach your autistic teenager or young adult how to take a shower more independently. I give you visuals with real-life photographs of men and women going through the steps of taking a shower. I also give you tons of more tips and resources to help you navigate how to teach the skill of taking a shower. You can check out the Taking a Shower Bundle Here!
We hope these tips can provide you with ideas to best help you teach your autistic teenager how to be more independent with bathing and showering. We know that these skills can take time and patience to learn and a lot of practice and repetition. When practicing these skills be practice safety first and always making sure your child is safe when around hot water. Please consult your doctor for medical advice or an occupational therapist in your local area for further questions or concerns. We are not responsible for injuries while practicing these skills.
Please let us know in the comments below if these tips are helpful and if there are others that have helped your family! We love hearing from you!