Aspergers and Poor Personal Hygienemyaspergerschild.com
A common behavior characteristic in Aspergers kids is the dislike of grooming and personal hygiene habits. Aspies of all ages seem to have difficulty establishing sound hygiene routines in the areas of bathing/showering, brushing hair, changing clothes, haircuts, cleaning teeth and washing hair.
Some Aspies tend to feel that showering or bathing isn't necessary. I remember asking my grandson with Aspergers if he was going to shower. He said “no” …he didn't have time for that. He then asked for an orange. I told him he could after he showered. That worked the ONE time. Then I started to find the peels and seeds in the shower. When I asked him about it, he said it was faster to do both at the same time.
The source of the problem stems mostly from the sensory sensitivities associated with Aspergers (particularly with tactile sensitivities) rather than from “laziness.” The nervous system of Aspies is always on high alert, and their brains interpret touch in unexpected ways (e.g., instead of being calmed by a gentle hug, they may become agitated or tense). Sometimes even anticipating being touched can trigger a meltdown in a child with Aspergers.
Here are some of the main reasons children with Aspergers seem to avoid practicing good personal hygiene:
• Using deodorant is potential area of discomfort for kids with Aspergers. The shock of the cold spray on their warm armpit coupled with the quite high-powered aerosol delivery causes genuine alarm and discomfort. Most deodorants are strongly scented, which also bombards a sensory sensitive Aspie.
• Some Aspies fear falling over if they shut their eyes, thus you can imagine the potential anxiety experienced by simply washing their face in the shower.
• Poor vestibular system functioning means Aspies often feel wobbly on their feet and suffer from gravitational insecurity (e.g., dislike of being upside-down, being suspended in mid-air or having their feet off the ground). Thus, the simple act of bending forward or backward over a sink or in the shower can create dizziness, anxiety or mild panic.
• Getting dressed and feeling comfortable in clothing is another area of distress for kids with Aspergers. Irritations can occur from loose fitting clothing touching the skin, tags or labels scratching, and clothes that are too stiff or too tight.
• Brushing teeth can be a challenge (e.g., not liking the taste of toothpaste, experiencing burning or stinging from it, having sensitive teeth and gums).
• Brushing hair or getting a haircut can be a challenge, because Aspies usually have very sensitive scalps.
Below are 20 tips to minimize the Aspergers child’s distress over grooming procedures:
1. Allow your Aspie to try several brands of toothpaste until he finds one he is comfortable with.
2. Be sure to put down a secure bath mat to prevent any slips on the wet floor when he’s done.
3. Being empathetic and talking with your Aspie about his discomfort in the grooming process will help him develop better personal hygiene habits.
4. Cut out tags and buy seamless socks and garments if your Aspergers child is sensitive to seams.
5. Experiment with unscented roll-on deodorants or natural crystal antiperspirant.
6. Get him into the habit of flossing, and if he has bad breath, have him gently scrape the back of his tongue with his toothbrush. Get a fun timer to help him brush longer, like a cool little hourglass filled with blue sand.
7. Goggles protect eyes from shampoo and water.
8. If your youngster finds a shirt that he is comfortable in, buy a couple in bigger sizes and put them away.
9. If your youngster has balance problems, consider a shower chair for use while washing hair.
10. Minimize temperature variations when bathing.
11. Provide a soft bristled electric toothbrush and bland tasting toothpaste.
12. Remind him not to touch his eyes or mouth or to pick his nose. Germs can easily enter the body through the mucous membranes of the eyes and through the nose and mouth.
13. Remind him to wash his hair if it looks oily, and teach him how to clean his face and under his nails.
14. Set up regular bath times. Many moms and dads find that evening baths are a nice way to relax their Aspergers youngster before bed. And bathing the night before can help ease the morning rush. Some Aspies prefer showers, which can also save a lot of time on a busy school night or morning. Showers can also save water.
15. Teach your child to wash his hands, especially after coming home from school or playing outside and before eating. Hand washing is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs and illnesses.
16. Teach your child to cover sneezes and coughs. Germs can travel far and wide on a sneeze or a cough. Get him into the habit of covering his mouth and nose with a tissue (or his arm if he can’t reach a tissue fast enough) when he sneezes or coughs.
17. Try to keep your child’s hair and clothing fashionable (even if he doesn’t care, his peers do).
18. Use a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner to reduce time spent in the shower.
19. Use simple clothing. Look for things like elastic waists, pullover shirts, Velcro fastenings and slip-on shoes.
20. Using visual reminders/timetables to encourage the completion of daily grooming tasks can be helpful in establishing good routines.
Whether your Asperger child is 4 or 24, personal hygiene and grooming may continue to cause distress through his sensory sensitivities. Being mindful of these sensitivities, and be prepared to compromise.
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