Let’s face it, sometimes getting your teenager on board with personal hygiene is like pulling teeth. For some teens, there’s no fuss. And for others? Forget it.
With our autistic teenagers, there’s no exception. Except, as we know, sometimes those additional sensory issues can really hinder this area. So how do we, as parents, help our autistic teens? We want them, ultimately, to become more independent with this.
It could be something to work on with visual schedules or with social stories.
I like to start with visual schedules and then introduce social stories as needed.
How to Teach Personal Hygiene Skills to an Autistic Teenager
First, you’ll want to identify which personal hygiene skill to work on.
How to help your autistic teenager with showering or bathing:
- Begin by using a bath or shower symbol on the visual schedule
- Respect their sensory needs (my daughter LOVES having her hair washed… now. When she was younger? She would scream)
- Create a task strip to break down each step
- Use a timer (if necessary)
- If you are using rewards, make sure you have a picture of the reward or the actual reward
How to help your autistic teenager with tooth brushing:
- Desensitize as needed (tooth brushing can be tough)
- Take it slow, unless you’ve been working on this skill for quite some time
- Let your teen handle as much as they can on their own
- Use a timer so they know how long to brush
- If needed, show a video of how to brush teeth
- If appropriate, try a mouthwash that shows plaque so your teen can target those areas
- Use rewards
How to help your autistic teenager with hair brushing:
- Provide opportunities to engage in calming both before and after
- Try deep pressure with a weighted vest or weighted lap pad during the hair brushing
- Try a wide, flat brush if that would be easier for your teen
- If your teen responds better to a comb, use a comb
- Let them do as much as they are able
- Use rewards and positive reinforcement
How to help your autistic teenager with personal care:
- For teenage girls, prepare them for their period as soon as they start showing signs of puberty.
- For teenage girls, introduce social stories as needed about shaving, changing a sanitary pad, etc.
- For teenage boys, introduce videos or social stories about shaving
- For teenage boys and girls, explain to them what is going on with their bodies.
You can also use these tips for a quarantine.
How to Help Your Autistic Teenage Daughter
When your autistic teenager daughter (or pre-teen in some cases), starts puberty that also means the onset of her menstrual cycle. Now, I don’t know about you, but even as a neurotypical teen? This was still a scary time.
Remember your own experiences and keep this in mind as you are helping your daughter adjust to all of these changes.
Is it always going to be easy?
But you will get through this and with time, it will get easier.
Find more tips for helping your autistic teenager through puberty.
Free Personal Hygiene Cards for Autistic Teenagers
In my Autism Parenting toolkit, you will now find a set of personal hygiene cards for autistic teenagers. For children who are younger, you can take a look at the bedtime routine chart and cards in the visual schedule toolkit.