• Autism Help UK

How do I get my child to take a bath?

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

Bathing is important in a human's day-to-day maintenance of staying fresh, clean, and smelling good. It is an important part of everyday routine and can be very beneficial to human health.


Overview:

  • Why is bathing important?

  • Challenges of bathing

  • Tips and help


Why is bathing important?

Not only does a warm bath make the blood flow easier, but it also makes it more oxygenated by allowing you to breathe deeper and slower, particularly when taking in steam. Taking a hot bath or spa can kill bacteria and improve immunity. It can relieve the symptoms of cold and flu.


Being clean and smelling good is a healthy part of social interaction. Humans are more likely to be friendly and more accepting if a person is clean and smells good.


Challenges of bathing for your autistic child

Autistic children will struggle taking baths due to sensory-related issues. The bathwater can be harsh on their ears when they are submerged in the water. This can cause pain and stress which in turn can put off bathing for your child.


This isn’t the only factor. Bathing for most children can be a struggle since it is a new task for your child to understand. It might seem like more of a chore rather than a day-to-day need.


Tips and help

There are thankfully a number of different ways you can help your autistic child feel more at ease with bath time.


Think about creating a spa-like environment.

Your child might feel stressed due to various issues. If you create a spa-like environment it will reduce the stress caused. Creating a spa-like environment doesn’t mean going over the top by setting candles or setting fountains in the bathroom. Creating a relaxing environment can be done by the following:

  • Turning the brightness down in the bathroom

  • Use an aromatherapy diffuser to fill the air with a certain scent that your child enjoys and finds soothing.

  • The right temperature in the room and in the water


Your child might have other things that relax them like certain toys or possible music you can play.


Protect sensitive ears


Autistic children have sensitive ears that water can interfere with massively. Try the following:

  • Reduce echoes in the bathroom

  • Fill the bathtub so water doesn't bounce around as much

  • Close the door and try to reduce the risk of loud sounds during bath time.


Provide heavy work before bathing

Try having your child exercise or do some form of activity before getting in the bath. This can help calm your child before the bath. If your child has completed an activity or exercise they will be more prepared to have a bath because they have already completed a task they might have not been ready to do.


Give your child a sense of predictability and control

The more control your child has the more comfortable they will feel about it. Show your child what happens when you pour a bath. Tell them step by step what happens so they have a better understanding and can expect what is to come. Photos demonstrations can help further this progression.


Over-time show your child how to pour a bath and how to rinse their own hair. When they are ready to do this it can help them feel in more control.


Think about moving bath time

Depending on your child's reaction you might want to change when bath time is. If your child becomes stimulated from bath time you should move this to earlier on in the day.


Consider a shower or being in the tub with your child

Your child might feel more comfortable if you are in the bath with them. Children will look to you when most scared and therefore trust you the most. If you are struggling with the previous approaches then try joining in so they have someone else sharing their experience.


What should you do?

The best way to approach any of these situations is to try them out and then find out what works and how you can build on them. Every child is different and reacts in certain ways, bath time is just a trial and error process until they feel comfortable. It is important to pay attention to your child's body language and how they react before and after bath time.


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