Several adult friends with autism have commented on problems related to grooming. One has sensory issues that make shaving and showering quite unpleasant. Another tells me that she remembers being very resistant as a kid to baths and brushing teeth. She thinks these unpleasant confrontations arose because she didn’t like her mom interrupting her daily routine. Even though she lives independently now, that resistance to daily grooming lingers in her adult life, causing some real problems at work and with friends. So, how can these folks and other individuals solve this problem of the need to bath and shave and brush teeth every day?
Daily grooming is an area of concern for many individuals with autism, children, teens and adults. Some, like the gentleman in the introduction of this podcast, have an aversion to the sensory issues related to bathing, shaving, and brushing teeth. Others, like the young lady in the introduction, are rather obsessive about daily routines, and are resistant when bathing or shampooing hair are inserted into their lives at irregular intervals.
These issues are certainly challenging, but, in reality, poor hygiene is a serious problem. Unpleasant body odor, bad breath, dirty clothes, and a messy appearance can hamper social relations and stand in the way of getting a job. Cleanliness is important, not only for the individual’s health, but also for the comfort of people around them. At the same time, I can certainly understand why a person who has significant sensory issues would resist bathing or shaving.
One solution may be to approach daily grooming as an adventure rather than a chore. Make it a regular part of routine every single day, even if you view it as a necessary evil. Assemble your own personalized grooming kit. Depending on your needs, it would include your own personal shampoo, soap, deodorant, cologne, lotion, brush or comb, toothbrush, and toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash. For an extra incentive, purchase a terry robe with your initials on it and purchase a quality towel and washcloth in your favorite color.
Then, don’t put off your daily bath. At a certain time every day, grab your grooming kit and head to the bathroom for a simple five-step process: (1) take a shower or bath and wash hair, (2) shave and comb hair, (3) put on deodorant, cologne, and hand lotion, (4) put on clean undergarments and clothes every day, and (5) brush and floss and swish mouthwash. Then head out into the world all cleaned and polished.
Note to parents: Consider making bath time a pleasant part of every single day when kids are young so daily grooming does not become a problem when they are teens and adults.
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NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. Send email to talk@FAQautism.com And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com