You made it! The time has come in your child’s life where they have reached puberty and you now have a hormonal teenager on your hands. Their body is changing and they are entering into their new journey towards adulthood.
The Autism Treatment Center of America receives many questions from parents and caregivers about how to help their children with personal hygiene and self-care. This includes washing, showering, shaving, wearing deodorant, etc.
In the past, if you have ever used a Son-Rise Program technique to help your child with a self-help skill in the past (toileting, nail-clipping, hair cutting, etc,) then the same principals and techniques will apply here too. So arm yourself with some persistence and know that once again you are doing an incredible, powerful act of love for your teenage child. You are helping them succeed socially, while also encouraging them to create more independence and self-empowerment by them implementing more self-care. Greeting this with a sense of ease and excitement and maintaining a loving, present and non-judgmental attitude will be key.
1) THE POWER OF DEMONSTRATION. Demonstrating and modeling what we want for our children gives them a concrete, visual experience of seeing something in action, before trying it for themselves. Often we just expect our children to know and understand exactly how to take more personal care. We ask them to do it a few times and then expect them to simply to get it. Playfully demonstrate this multiple times, so that they can get a feel for it and process what we are inviting them to do without being put on the spot. Next time you want to help them with say, washing their face, for example, pick a time when your child is giving you a green light and do something like this. Say, “You know what? I feel like I want to wash my face right now! I haven’t done it today and it feels sticky, oh this is going to be awesome!” If they are in the bathroom at the time and they can see it, that would be ideal but if not you can show them your special face wash, take a good animated sniff of it and try explaining “This is the best smelling soap! I can’t wait to use it!” Then after you do this, passionately announce, “That was so fantastic! Ooh, check out my awesome clean face”.
2) USE EXPLANATIONS. Our children need predictability and control in their worlds and by using explanations we are not only making ourselves more trustworthy but also showing our belief in our children’s ability to understand what is going on around them. Since we believe that our children understand a great deal more than they can currently verbalize (whether they are pre-verbal, semi-verbal or fully verbal), letting them know what to do and why helps them connect the dots to what to do when they are not learning these types of things in a typical was from their peers or older siblings. If you want them to wear deodorant, for example, try saying “Sometimes when we don’t take care of our armpits, they end up kind of smelling and people might tend to back away from us. This is not because they don’t like us but that the smell can be too strong in their nostrils”.
Take your time with this and work on one skill at a time. We have seen these two techniques to be incredibly useful to inspire change in our children so we hope you have fun and enjoy each step.