One of the biggest struggles I find as a parent is hygiene with my 11 year old son. Washing hands, taking showers, and keeping up with his grooming -- it's essential for children with autism to learn good personal hygiene. Whether it's making your routine less scary and more fun, here are some tips to teach hygiene to kids and teens on the spectrum. He would never shower or wash hands if not prompted regularly. ACK!
I have been searching high and low on tips and tricks to help elevate stress for him and myself especially during the bedtime routine. Keeping his hair short is key. I am working with an ABA therapist to implement a visual schedule on what to do first, second, third, etc. with reward/praise for being able to check off each item he completes successfully on his own. With puberty around the corner, I'm feeling that it's vital we get things under control before that happens.
An example of a schedule is:
Schedules can cover your child’s whole hygiene routine or a much simpler routine such as showering. Below is a more elaborate example of a schedule.
I will wash my face, arms, stomach, feet and legs with soap and a face washer.
I will wash under my armpits with soap.
I will wash around my vagina/penis with soap.
After the shower, I will dry my armpits with a towel. I will dry my around my vagina/penis with a towel.
I will put deodorant under my armpits.
I will get dressed into clean clothes.
We also struggle with managing water temperature. I have added red and blue to the faucet to give an easy visual to make quick decision making easier. To make a shower or bath more fun you can have them wear their swim suit to start. This tactic really helped a friend of mine's child.
Social stories can be very helpful too. Some examples that I have found thus far are:
I will notice that I am sweating more.
Sweating is when my body releases small amounts of fluid to make sure I am not too hot.
I might notice this when it’s hot outside, when I am nervous or when I am playing sport.
Most people don’t like the smell of sweat, so I need to wash myself every day.
After my shower, I should use deodorant under my arms.
This might feel strange. This is OK.
Deodorant will help to stop my body smelling bad
After all of my research, the key seems to be to keep things extremely simple and VISUALS are a must! Since my son struggles with independence I have also incorporated the reward after all tasks are completed in hopes that he will gain more confidence which in tern will lead to independence.