Like all children, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will need to take extra care with personal hygiene when they reach puberty. Here are some ideas to make hygiene easier for them to manage.
Hygiene: practical strategies
Adolescence is a time when your child’s changing body means that personal hygiene will need to change too.
You might need to help your child learn how to shave or put on deodorant. And you might also need to explain why, because your child might not fully understand the social rules behind personal hygiene. For example, we sweat more when we reach puberty. Most people don’t like the smell of sweat, so we wash regularly.
Schedules that break down your child’s routine into steps can help. You might use words, pictures or both. You could cover the whole routine – for example, shower, wash face, brush teeth, put on deodorant, brush hair.
Or you could also use a schedule for just one part of your child’s routine, such as showering. Here’s an example.
- 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 with a towel.
- I will put deodorant under my armpits.
- I will get dressed into clean clothes.
Put the schedule up in the bathroom where your child will see it every morning.
Video modelling can help your child learn self-care skills too. You could video yourself putting on deodorant and watch it with your child.
Social Stories™ are also useful. Here’s an example.
- 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 is 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 stop my body smelling bad.
Books and resources
You can get some great books and resources to help your child before and during puberty. Some of these are available as a puberty kit from Amaze. If you can’t get them from Amaze, they are available separately.
You will probably need to go over these messages many times with your child. Try to be patient with your child – and yourself. You might find it helpful to share experiences and get support from other parents in our forum for parents of children with ASD.