Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Teaching Personal Hygiene to Aspergers Children & Teens

"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 Aspergers children and teens with personal hygiene:

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!

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook


•    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) 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 20yrs 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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Anonymous said...

my 6yr old is like this he hates brushing his teeth and having a bath

Anonymous said...

My 10yr old aspie boy luvs the smell of his skinky pits...takes pride in the fact that they still smell after the man in his life to help me teach I force deoderant before he leaves every morning

Anonymous said...

Just a thoyfht, better food will help with the smells regardless of hygene. Course that may be a battle as well, but at least its one you can control. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Everyday I ask if it was done, and everyday my kid acts as if it's the first time I ever suggested it. It gets done with a reminder, but if I don't nag daily it would NEVER happen :/

Anonymous said...

It's funny because my as pie teen son is just the opposite..Takes several showers and day...OCD about germs and body oils etc :/

Anonymous said...

We have a laminated list in the Bathroom and Kitchen because we felt we were always nagging..".have you cleaned your teeth, have you washed your hair and had a shower today"!! Now we just say have you checked your list today hun and she goes off and does it...seems to be working so far!!

Anonymous said...

Lol on a lighter note her lil sis does keep feeling her toothbrush and delights in snitching if it's dry!!!

Anonymous said...

I wrote a reminder to my 11 year old son on the bathroom mirror with lipstick that he needed to wash his face. It didn't work....

Anonymous said...

I don't know....we nagged and nagged our son when he was 11 and 12 to clean himself and wear clean stuff, now all of a sudden he takes 2 or 3 showers a day. It must be love...LOL

Anonymous said...

That's my son! Lists work great. If its not on his list it won't get done. I write with a wax pencil his hygiene tasks on his side of the kids bathroom mirror but in questions. 'Did you brush your teeth?' 'Did you use Deodorant?'. Not to single him out I do the same for his sister on her side. It helps. I just wonder when he grows up will he still need a list?

Anonymous said...

OMG. Are you sure my son is not at your house.

Anonymous said...

my son doesnt have aspie but has asd he has the same problem nearly 18 now and still have to supervise and remind him otherwise he would never have a shower etc. apparently i heard these children/teens dont like getting water on their head or face so maybe thats why i and you yourself struggle. hope this is ok and good luck

Anonymous said...

omg! This is my son. He just got braces so I now have to brush his teeth everyday :(

Anonymous said...

I think the visual reminders are very important for these kids. I'm off to make a list today!

Anonymous said...

I suggest to my aspie teen to have a shower and he flips right out. Washing his hair is another fight all together to the point I get fed up and shave his head. He will be 14 next month and still has problems with going to the bathroom in his pants and wetting the bed, and somehow claims he cant smell himself or he does not care. I make him shower everyday (or bath with lots of bubble bath) He is headed to high school in September and I worry he will be made fun of, but as bad as it sound, if he is, I wonder if it will be what it takes to get him to shower on his own and use soap not just stand under the running water. Either that or he meets a girl which could also change how he feels about his hygene.

Anonymous said...

That's my son too! Holy cow. I thought he was just being lazy. He refuses to take more than one bath/shower per week, so I let him get away with that one AS LONG AS, he washes at the sink every day - and yes I have to stand there and watch. Also have to check on him when he's brushing his teeth, otherwise he'll do a quick "brushover" and say he brushed his teeth. ugh. We started with the deodorant almost 1 year ago (he's 12), still have to remind him every day.

Anonymous said...

I am already having these issues with my son and he is 8. It is a fight every morning and night. Hopefully we can resolve it or figure out a solution before it gets any worse. I think it is the sensory issues that make it such an issue for them. We have started OT and hoping this will help.

Anonymous said...

HAHAAH mine is 7 and walks around in shorts and no shirt already, I have gotten him to put on a shirt for dinner. but I don't know if that is aspie or just being like dad, lol

Anonymous said...

My daughter hates the taste of Mint toothpaste and that is about all there is, any suggestions?

jstarkey said...

I just took my Aspie nephew to the store and allowed him to choose his own deoderant. He is so proud of his choice, pretty much puts it on by himself every day and loves for us to smell him after he does. Maybe making it his choice was the key. I'm not sure.

Christina Pierson said...

Toothpaste wise there is Strawberry by Toms of maine. also if you order online Burts bees has an orange.

My son has issues with deodorant, I have tried natural ,no smell, he just chucks them in the garbage when I'm not looking. He will be 13 this year and is proud of his "stink"

We are pretty sure he only uses water in the shower, but it became such a control issue and a set up for meltdown that I have asked my husband to stop shampooing his hair for him. And things are a lot calmer.

Full Spectrum Mama said...

It's comforting to know other families are struggling with these same issues, but I do feel like I've tried all these things and my guy still doesn't give a rip. Sigh.

Full Spectrum Mama said...

It's comforting to read about other families with similar hygiene struggles, but I feel like I have tried all these strategies and my son still doesn't give a rip. His mind is on other stuff. I worry so much he'll lose his hard-won social gains because of stink...

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content