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If your autistic teen is struggling with setting up good hygiene practices or keeping up hygiene practices, it’s worthwhile considering some support. Below are some of our favourite tips for where you can start:
Be careful how you bring up the subject of hygiene or of how you talk about it. Hygiene can be a very personal subject and we want to make sure that we don’t cause offence or upset. Be mindful of not accusing your teen or student of being ‘smelly’ or dirty looking. Go ‘gently’ with any discussion.
Begin planning for hygiene routines well before things like body odour become an issue. Introduce things like deodorants a few years before they may be needed and take time to transition in new routines and have them set up ahead of time.
Give your teen some reasons why hygiene is important.
When we understand the logical reason ‘why’, it’s easier to create good habits.
Having good hygiene habits is important for our own health and wellbeing. When we look after ourselves and our bodies, we are more likely to stay healthy.
Having good hygiene is also important when engaging with the community or in the workplace – whether we like it or not, people prefer to be around other people who look and smell clean, and often workplaces and community establishments have standards of hygiene that are expected of their employees or people accessing their facilities.
Avoid using simple reasons such as ‘because you smell’ and instead go a little deeper with explaining why it’s worthwhile being clean (for example, we wash our bodies so that they smell clean to people around us and therefore it makes it easier to get a job).
Create a list of the basic hygiene tasks
A list will make it clear as to what a daily hygiene routine will look like. Include things such as;
– washing hands before meals
– cleaning teeth at the beginning and end of each day
– toileting and ensuring our bodies are cleaned properly
– washing the body in the shower
– washing hair regularly and the steps involved
It’s good to break the tasks down into steps or to put similar -tasks together – this helps with knowing what to do ‘first’ or ‘next’.
Work on setting up a routine for one task or step at a time, introducing the next task only when your teen is comfortably in a routine with the first task.
Use physical aids or supports where you can
Place mirrors in the shower or bath to make it easier to see the body, face or hair to ensure that washing is thorough.
Use checklists or photos as visual reminders of what to do – this will help with the ongoing maintenance of routines.
Choose your hygiene battles!
If hair is short, maybe hair brushing is not so important. And if creams or lotions cause sensory discomfort, take the time to find less offensive products – this goes for roll on deodorants as well!
Keep interactions between you and your teen positive and together you’ll be on your way to developing great habits!
Written by Elissa Plumridge
You can watch the video HERE