5 Tips to Help Children with Autism with Personal Hygiene

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“Alright,” I started and addressed my husband, “you and Bobby get a shower at the neighbors.  I will take Cate to shower at my parent’s house.”

“I’m not going,” a small girl voice pops in.

“Yes, you are.  I will shower at the gym after my run.” I stop and look at Declan.

“I guess I could just try to wipe him down….”

5 Tips to Help Children with Autism with Personal Hygiene

We are a one shower house.  Our one shower is dismantled and in the process of being repaired.

As thankful as I am that the shower will no longer be leaking through to the ceiling below, I am as annoyed and upset as anyone to not have a working shower.

We are on day 5 of no shower.  As I shift people around to different showers and come up with unique cleaning technique’s (until tomorrow when the shower will be ready for use), there is one individual that has yet to be submerged in or showered by water.


In my defense, I did not anticipate the shower to take this long to repair.  I did not prepare him for the idea to go to a different place to bathe.  Also, getting Declan to bathe on any given day is a battle, and if he fights back hard enough, I let the bathing process pass.

Bathing is not the end of the struggle to maintain Declan’s personal hygiene.  Right now, his fingernails are long daggers.  When angry, he is prone to scratch others.  But trying to get his nails trimmed is another battle we dance around.  Brushing teeth, changing clothes, combing hair, washing hands, flushing toilets.  Getting Declan to complete any of these activities can be quite a challenge.

In the past, sadly, these items were amongst the battles that I either chose to fight, or let pass.  The days were already so hard.  These requests were always met with screams of rage, attempts to hurt me or hurt himself.

These days, depending on the day, the requests are met with screams or fists.  Some days Declan is open to the suggestion to clean.

Here’s what has been working so far:

  • PLAN – Of course, no surprises.  The more I prep him, and tell him when he is going to take a bath or get his nails clipped, the better.  We used to use a visual schedule and I could place these activities on his day.  Declan quickly realized he could just remove the ones he didn’t want to do – but these could work for someone else.
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  • LISTEN TO THE PROFESSIONAL – Praise the Lord the dentist went to visit his school a few weeks ago. In his meeting with the dentist (who Declan thinks is called a “Denture”) he was told to brush his teeth twice a day and be sure to brush his tongue.  He talked about his meeting with the Denture ever since, and when he doesn’t want to brush – I remind him of what the Denture said.
  • ROUTINE – like anything else that works for Declan, make it into a routine.
  • WORDING – I learned to never say, “Let’s cut your nails (or hair).” “CUT” makes him scream and run away.  I chose “trim” or “clip” and remind him how it didn’t hurt last time – he will be okay.
  • INCENTIVES – Getting dressed is a battle we face every day. No elegant clothes, soft cotton all the way.  He just doesn’t want to be bothered.  So, he doesn’t get to watch his You Tube until he is dressed.  I usually hear a lot of mean words while he dresses, but then we are done and ready for the day.

As Declan gets older I recognize the need to make these activities a part of his routine for good personal hygiene.  The longer I wait and the bigger he gets, the harder it may be to instill these necessary acts of good personal hygiene.   One day, I realize I am going to have to add items to his routine like deodorant and shaving.  I would much rather add those to his list of good personal hygiene habits then to start from scratch!


7 thoughts on “5 Tips to Help Children with Autism with Personal Hygiene

  1. Ben used to love taking a bath. Not so much any more. We try for at least a quick dip in the tub every night for routine but sometimes it’s baby wipes. He hair to his shoulders worn in a ponytail. Will NOT allow us to cut it. We trim the ends only when he’s super tired and zoned on YouTube. We wash it once a week unless it’s really sweaty or dirty. It’s just not worth the injuries we incur. He likes brushing his teeth, or mostly have ME brush his teeth. He’s still working on dressing himself. He picks at his nails so we never have to cut them. I have a feeling hygiene is always going to be something we’re working on. He may not always be spanking clean but he’s never filthy either (except when he plays in the mud😜)
    I hate plumbing issues! I hope your’s is resolved soon. Meanwhile, baby wipes👍💌💌💌

    1. Baby wipes – that is a good idea! When Declan finally potty trained (just a few months ago) I was so happy I donated all the diapers and wipes I had left. Right now I am soaking a washcloth in warm soapy water and doing my best :-). Baby wipes would be eaiser and good idea to have around. I like that – D is that same way – he won’t be sparkling clean but he won’t be filthy either 🙂 Thanks you! Not having a shower or bath has made me recognize how much I value having one! Hoping today is the big day everything is done!

  2. Hygiene is a big issue as they get older. We had a tub out of commission for the last few weeks and sharing my bathroom is not fun! All hope of privacy or pleasant smelling rooms becomes more difficult with teen boys in the house. Remember this, too, will pass!

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