Bathing is an essential aspect of our personal hygiene. While baths are famous for their unique soothing effect, children with autism often find this activity challenging for a variety of reasons.
In this article, we will look at why children with autism may struggle with bathing and how to make bath time fun for them.
Why May Someone with Autism Have a Bathing Issue?
Bathing may come as second nature to many of us. A closer look, however, reveals that a bath may be more complicated than it seems on the surface, explaining why bath time can be overwhelming for kids on the spectrum.
It is quite common for children with autism spectrum disorder to be unwilling to engage in activities related to personal hygiene. And this issue often leaves parents feeling helpless and mentally stressed. But fortunately, it is a challenge you can overcome with your younger one.
The first step in addressing the bathing issue in your autistic child is becoming aware of and understanding the underlying causes of the difficulties they face in the tub or shower.
The following are ASD characteristics that might influence your kid’s aversion to bath time.
- The tendency to get upset by slight alterations.
- The desire to stick to certain routines and schedules.
- Specific repetitive motions like hand flapping, body rocking, and so on.
- Unpleasant reactions to how surrounding items appear, smell, sound, feel, or even taste.
- Hyperactive and impulsive behavior.
While these ASD characteristics can contribute to your child’s unwillingness to bathe, there is always the small matter of heightened senses.
Heightened Sensory Issues
Children on the spectrum are often hypersensitive to environmental stimuli. And considering that bathing involves several simultaneous actions, it can be confusing and emotionally stressful for them. This distress could be intensified in an autistic kid with sensory processing disorder (SPD) – a condition that affects how the brain comprehends sensory information (stimuli).
Here are some things or conditions that may trigger your autistic child’s heightened senses during bath time.
- The feeling of water on the skin, hair, or face.
- The sounds of splashing and running water.
- Water temperature and water level in the tub.
- Bright bathroom lights.
- Reflecting illumination from mirrors.
- The feeling of soap on their skin and shampoo in their hair.
- The smell of bathing soaps and hair shampoos.
- The feeling of being wrapped in a towel.
- The slippery texture of the bathtub’s surface.
Because of their limited emotional capacity, processing all of the aforementioned sensory stimulations at once can be particularly difficult for children with autism. This may result in a child’s resistance, meltdown, or complete refusal to cooperate.
Fear of Getting Soap in their Eyes
Your child on the spectrum may also have issues with bath time due to the fear of getting soap or shampoo in their eyes.
As we advance, we’ll discuss how you can help someone with autism deal with their bathing issues.
Tips for Bathing Someone with Autism
While bathing your autistic child can be mentally exhausting for them, it can also leave you feeling confused and helpless. For this reason, we’ve devised various means to make bath time enjoyable for both you and your kid.
Below are practical tips for bathing your loved one on the autism spectrum.
Pick a time that works for them
For children with ASD, routine gives a sense of stability in a somewhat unstable environment. So, if bath time happens at the same time and in the same way every day, your autistic child may start to feel less anxious about an unexpected event in the tub or shower.
Prepare the bath in advance
After figuring out the reasons behind your loved one’s bathing issue, the next step is to ensure that the shower or tub is prepared to suit their sensitivity and safety. For instance, if your child is sensitive to sound, you should try using a bathtub and ensure it is filled in their absence.
Additionally, you should consider the temperature of the bath water and its level in the tub. Remember, the purpose of this preparation is to ensure your autistic kid is comfortable – or at least less anxious – during bath time.
Make a to-do list
Your level of preparedness – as a parent – can influence how smoothly your child’s bath time will go. While preparing to bathe your autistic child, a checklist of things to do may come in handy.
Moreover, if someone else has to bathe your loved one, your to-do list should assist them in keeping the bathing session as routine as possible.
Since you can’t predict how your child with autism will react to unfamiliar smells, it is best to keep the bathroom fragrance-free. You can achieve a fragrance-free bathroom by avoiding air fresheners and scented bathing soaps.
Decide if a shower or bath is better
You should choose between a shower and a bath based on your child’s preference and level of water sensitivity. Before making a decision, try both a tub and shower with your autistic kid while ensuring to follow a routine, prepare in advance, and minimize bathroom fragrances.
Toys for Bath Time
Toys can be used as a distraction for children with ASD during bath time. Moreover, toys will make bathing a fun activity to look forward to. Below are a few items you can use while bathing your autistic loved one.
This 14-piece sponge set will surely meet the tactile and sensory preferences of your child on the spectrum. With various sponge textures, there are enough options for your loved one to choose from.
If your autistic child enjoys drawing or painting but dislikes shower time, these washable bath crayons should be a good distraction. Your child can use the crayons to scribble or draw on slick surfaces without making a mess.
This 3-piece toy set is made from high-quality silicone with aesthetically pleasing colors. The PipSquigz can provide an all-in-one sensory experience to your child during the bath.
Besides toys and other distractions, you must also pay attention to the type of shampoo and bathing soap your autistic loved one uses.
Shampoo, Body Wash, and Conditioner for Autistic Children
As inferred earlier, items like shampoos and body wash are essential to your autistic kid’s attitude towards bathing. Here are a few recommended products for bathing your child on the spectrum.
Nature Clean Kids Shampoo & Body Wash – It is a dual-purpose product that is safe, fragrance-free, and unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in your younger one.
Suave Sensitive Skin 3-in-1 Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash – This three-in-one product takes care of both skin and hair. It is perfect for kids with sensitive skin.
Babi Botanicals Sensitive Baby Fragrance Free Shampoo & Wash – This fragrance-free organic product cleans sensitive skin perfectly. It is also suitable for your kid’s hair.
If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in Indiana, New Jersey, or New York, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.