Raising an autistic child who also has Sensory Processing disorder, it can be a challenge to make sure your child is clean and nice looking.Every day at 8:00am and 8:00pm, Caleb does basic grooming, including brushing his teeth, bathing, skin care, and hair care.
Brushing Teeth: Brushing Caleb’s teeth is always difficult; he doesn’t know how to keep the toothpaste and saliva in his mouth, so it just dribbles out. Rinsing out his mouth also requires coordination that doesn’t end very pretty. Caleb sometimes gags with the toothbrush in his mouth; two days ago, I was hosed down with vomit when the toothbrush gagged him.
We have tried vibrating toothbrushes, and in the beginning he loved them. Now that he has been sensitive to gagging, he doesn’t want it. We also make sure that his toothpaste doesn’t have fluoride because he does have a tendency to swallow it.
Bathing: Last summer, I signed Caleb up for private swimming lessons at the local YMCA. At first, it was wonderful, but then he started getting really upset when he had to rinse off in the shower before going in the pool. Eventually, the shower was a deal breaker and he stopped wanting to go swimming. Then he refused to even take a bath. For six months, we had to wet wipe him down everyday. It was frustrating, but my husband and I knew that if we pushed him too hard, he would never bathe again.
Six months after him swearing off water, I was able to persuade him to take a bath with the promise of a lavender bath bomb. I don’t know why this was the turning point for him, but he said yes. Since then, I buy the Whole Foods bath bombs, mostly the lavender scent, and I keep them on hand until I need to get Caleb in the bath.
Skin Care: Caleb has keratosis pilaris (yes, because he needed MORE issues), so it is important that we clean his face and use special face cream. We use Burt’s Bees oily to normal skin face wipes; Caleb loves the grapefruit scent. They are gentle enough for Caleb to use himself, as I’m not concerned about the wipes going near his eyes. After the wipes, we use a cream by KP Elements that really helps with the bumps on his face. Finally, Caleb has some chap sticks that he uses.
Hair Care: Caleb has long hair because a) his daddy has hair down to his waist, and Caleb wants to be like daddy, and b) he hates haircuts. He gets anxious just talking about hair cuts. So, we let him have long hair on the condition that we brush it twice a day. We have to be very careful and slow, but still Caleb will complain through it. He is very sensitive, and just because it wouldn’t hurt us doesn’t mean his pain doesn’t exist. We try very hard to always start at the ends and slowly work our way up. We want Caleb get used to hair brushing, even though it bothers him, because appearance is important.
I also once a day apply Argan oil to his hair. It is important to get oil that is 100% pure organic oil; we like PURA D’OR Organic Moroccan Argan Oil. It is fairly inexpensive and doesn’t have a strong scent. Oil that is not pure or organic can have an off-putting scent, which can be a deal-breaker for Caleb.
We try to explain to Caleb that people judge other people by their looks. It isn’t right or fair, but we all do it. Just because Caleb is autistic doesn’t mean that he gets a pass on how he looks. He needs to conform to some social norms, and it is important for him to start getting the routines down now so that when he is older, he just does it automatically.