"I could use some tips on how to get my Aspie teen to have better hygiene. His breath and arm pits stink most of the time. He hates to brush his teeth or take a shower. He doesn't even like to wear clothes (walks around the house in his boxer shorts most of the time)."
Sounds like you are going to have to assume the role of "personal hygiene coach." Lucky you!
While the typical youngster can usually master personal hygiene skills by the time they are age 6, children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism often struggle with these tasks due to sensory issues (e.g., smells, sounds and textures) that are related to these skills. Fortunately, as they become more familiar with the tools used for personal hygiene, these tasks will be much easier.
Here are some tips to help with personal hygiene issues:
1. Brushing teeth is a task that can be difficult for children with Aspergers. The aversion problems have to do with a foreign object going in their mouth, the texture of the brush, and the taste of the toothpaste. What you may find helpful in introducing tooth brushing to your youngster is to use an electric toothbrush with a character on it that he enjoys. The vibration from the electric toothbrush and the familiar character will make this task more enjoyable. Once you overcome the aversion issues, all you have to do is demonstrate the process, have him copy you, and then narrate the steps as he tries to do it himself.
2. Have the same sex parent or caregiver teach Aspergers teens new hygiene practices. A man is better at teaching a boy to shave, for example, and a woman is better at helping a girl cope with her period.
3. Keep your grooming routine as stable as possible. Do everything in the same order and at the same time every day.
4. Look at a youth magazine with your youngster for ideas about hairstyles. Keep it simple, but not nerdy. Let the youngster do it herself if at all possible.
5. Another challenge for Aspies is washing the underarms and using deodorant. Explain how it is done and why. Go slowly at first. You may want to let the youngster practice washing for a few days before adding the application of deodorant. Give your youngster privacy if she is capable of washing themselves. The simplest way to tell if she is doing it properly is the smell test. If body odor is still present, ask her to try again.
6. Repeat hygiene routines every day. Repetition is paramount. If there is not enough time in the morning, divide it between morning and evening.
7. Show your adolescent how and where to shave with an electric razor. Aspergers teens that need repetition to feel secure may want to repeat the process daily, even if it is not necessary.
8. Teach and reinforce the facts about sexual maturing to Aspergers teens in a way they can understand. Start adding extra steps as body changes begin, one at a time, to your teen's hygiene routine. When he is comfortable with one step add another. There are books and classes to help you, but learning and reassurance must continue at home.
9. Teach your Aspergers child how to care for her hair. This will include learning how to brush, style, and wash her hair. You will want to start with basic brushing and styling. If your youngster is resistant to hair brushing, it could just be the brush you are using. You can overcome this problem by letting her try a variety of brushes to find one she likes the feel of - or the look of.
10. Washing hair is a big challenge also. The aversion that children with Aspergers have for hair washing has to do with several factors (e.g., water temperature, the feel of water on their head, soap getting in their eyes, the texture of the shampoo, etc.). A good way to overcome these problems is to adjust various aspects of the hair washing routine until you find the perfect combination that makes the task bearable. You will then walk your youngster through the hair washing process.
11. Watch for early signs of adolescent changes. Do not wait until they are full blown to begin to teach good hygiene.
12. Lastly, have plenty of patience for your Aspergers child’s sensory sensitivities!
More resources for parents of children and teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:
==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's Children
==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's Teens
==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management
==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's: How to Promote Self-Reliance
==> Everything You'll Ever Need to Know About Parenting Asperger's Children
==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism
==> AudioBook: Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism
==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism
• Anonymous said... all I can say is good luck and if you find the secret let me know
• Anonymous said... Also natural deodorant crystals don't stink the place out. you use them on wet armpits so they're a good reason to have a shower first. They're surprisingly effective and last a long time.
• Anonymous said... Does anyone's kid refuse when told or find some way if distracting you eg meltdown or fiendishly clever diversion that you don't identify til the next day? If so, google Pathological Demand Avoidance for tips!
• Anonymous said... I hear that a visual schedule in the bathroom is great. Looking at it everyday is supposed to get it into their ling term memory which is stronger than their short term. Mine I'd still young & I don't have that challenge yet
• Anonymous said... I posted a list on the bathroom mirror (very detailed) and insisted that he follow it every day. ie: shower, wash your hair and your private areas, put on deodorant, comb your hair, brush you teeth for 2 minutes (set a timer), clean underwear every day, etc... I also purchased clinical strength deodorant that is applied before bed and that helped A LOT!! He is now 19 and usually remembers it on his own but before he walks out the door I always say "did you brush you teeth and put on deodorant?" I am fortunate that he is not offended by these reminders. I also told him that taking a shower is a daily activity and he would just have to get used to it so that he could fit into society. Everyone takes a shower every day- no questions asked!!!
• Anonymous said... I recently took my Aspie nephew to the store and let him choose his own deoderant. He is very proud of it and pretty much puts it on every day without being asked. He also likes for us to smell him and tell him how good he smells. Maybe letting him make a choice and making a bit of a deal out of it helped. Who knows, I just hope it lasts.
• Anonymous said... I wish choices worked for my son I even bring up going to choose one he likes or try to pass them in the store isle and he flips out. bought the natural no smell ones and he throws them away. We have him shower every other day. One day I did laundry and only found one pair of underwear. So I confronted him about this and he padded the laundry for the next week with 7 pairs of clean underwear. Consistency is key.
• Anonymous said... Lots of good ideas here for you. I tie some of the hygiene items to rewards. My son loves to play games and if he gets the hygiene done without too much repetition he gets extra play time.
• Anonymous said... Mine wil after about a dozen prompts he is 18 I am worried about his teeth he rarely does the night time brush I keep telling him he will be sorry
• Anonymous said... My Aspie daughter (almost 16) is the same way! She hates to shower, brush her teeth, etc! She has gotten better lately....just depends on the mood and what's happening in her life.
• Anonymous said... My aspie son, 16, loves Axe because its cool and girls like it. I got him the soap/shampoo mixed one, the deodorant, and the body spray. I stopped buying the body spray when he was using a can a week.
• Anonymous said... My son is all about rules and lists so I had to make hygiene a 'Rule'. I use a wax pen to write his list of hygiene tasks on the bathroom mirror. He gets fined $1 if they don't happen. He has a strong aversion to anything not natural and chemical and for awhile wouldn't use products. I had him research natural products that worked. So now the entire family uses them thanks to him educating us all lol! It took awhile but now its almost a non-issue.
• Anonymous said... My son walks round in his boxers. ALL thr time! He's 20! (So does my little boy age 1 0 and nt)...my aspie son had problems with his teetth and needed a brace and when the orthodontist saw him she almost refused to put him into braces because of poor dental hygiene..he was so mortified he went completely the other way, brushed his teetth from then on perfectly and now has a dream smile...he works out a lot and can get v sweaty and be unaware of his own body smell (so I make him use a roll on deoderant and then a spray one on top!) X
• Anonymous said... stick reminder notes up in the bathroom? Brush teeth. Wash under arms. Use deodorant etc...
• Anonymous said... This describes my 12 yo to a tee...
• Anonymous said... This honestly sounds like it's as much about him being a teenage boy as an Aspie.
• Anonymous said... We had the same problem with our daughter, we got help from our local autism outreach worker who came out and had a personal talk with her and touch wood so far it's worked, the only problem my daughter had was with spray deodorants where she would spray but it wasn't going under the arm so I got her a roll on and she now smells sweet
• Anonymous said... we had this issue in working with our behaviour therapist we chose the most important task to challenge first and focus on then listed the others below. My son was on a token program where he got tokens of different colors each day to trade in for something he liked then at the end of the month we tallied them all and if he was in the big range he got a bigger treat. Predetermined in the planning phase. It takes a while but it did work. We are still working on brushing teeth it is coming. We go to the dentist every 6 to months for a cleaning to ensure we are OK. Hope this helps.
• Anonymous said... also glad it's not just mine, I did get him a onsie which he likes enough to wear all the time instead of walking round in boxers (with a fleece blanket tied over one shoulder like some sort of roman toga when it's cold) but I have to kidnap it when he's sleeping to wash it, again, it's that old chestnut of 'no honey, you can't go on playstation til you've had a shower/brushed teeth etc'
• Anonymous said... OMG..I thought it was just me! He was diagnosed 6mths ago...now 20yrs old...now showers 5 out of 7 days a week. But through his teen years...geez!
• Anonymous said... Pray for patience that's all I have left now
• Anonymous said... Your not alone, I'm in the same boat but that's what's so funny. When you hear someone going through the same thing you gotta laugh and have a sigh of relief your not insane. I do have to check with my son every morning and tell him to shower, lucky for me he does not give me a hard time but if I forgot you can Smell him as he goes by and basically I have him stop what he's doing and take a shower right then and there. How about good old fashioned bribery. My son loves his Star Wars tee shirts and such. Maybe if you cand find stuff like that he would love to wear, especially when they think its funny ,he'll take a shower to wear one. The teeth...that's a tough one. I have three other grown NT children and everyone of them gave me a hard time about that, it's a Teenage thing. They all out grew it.
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