Tips on Learning to Shower

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As part of personal hygiene and good grooming, everyone needs to wash daily. Showers are most frequently the selected way of keeping clean.

  • Determine the best time of day for your child to take a shower. Showering before bed may be better rather than rushing in the morning before school.
  • Build showering into your regular schedule or routine.
  • Be sure that your child can operate the faucet safely and knows how to work it from within the shower. Practice with him or her to adjust the temperature, hot and cold, BEFORE he or she gets into the shower. Consider lowering the temperature of your hot water heater at home to avoid scalding.
  • Use visuals to help your child remember which control is for hot and which is for cold, or which way to turn the faucet to make it warmer/cooler. If your child associates colors with temperature, use red for hot, blue for cold to help your child remember. Laminate and post in the shower if necessary.
  • You may want to consider a detachable shower head if the sensory experience of a shower is too uncomfortable for your child. The additional control of the water spray may make showering tolerable.
  • Consider mounting soap, shampoo, and conditioner containers with push button dispensers on the shower wall; label them by name or number dispensers in order of use. If you prefer free-standing containers, use plastic bottles with a pump so your child can easily pump out body soap and hair care products. Pump bottles are usually easier for fingers to use when wet and soapy. Label or number them in order of use.
  • Consider mounting an anti-fog plastic mirror in the bathroom shower so your child can see him or herself as he or she washes. These are available with suction cups that stick to tile or drywall.
  • Consider soft cotton shower mitts or gloves which may be easier than holding a wash cloth or slippery soap.
  • Order the steps of what gets washed first, second, third, etc. Make sure your list includes washing the genitals and anus. It is a good idea to wash these parts last.
  • Practice the steps BEFORE getting into the shower. Depending on your child’s learning style, consider practicing the sequence on a doll beforehand.
  • Your child may be more willing to complete routines if he or she can earn a reward.
  • When your child is first learning to shower, set aside enough time for showering so you or a same gender family member can stay with your child and guide him or her through the order of washing. It may take several months for your child to learn to get through the sequence of washing independently. Backward chaining (starting at the end and working backwards to learn steps) may help your child to order the steps of washing and learn the routine.

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Last Updated: December 17, 2013

The Center for Autism Research and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia do not endorse or recommend any specific person or organization or form of treatment. The information included within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ and CAR Resource Directory™ should not be considered medical advice and should serve only as a guide to resources publicly and privately available. Choosing a treatment, course of action, and/or a resource is a personal decision, which should take into account each individual's and family's particular circumstances.


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