Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Self-help Skills: Showering

Over the years, I have often heard from parents of tweens, teens, and adults with disabilities who say they're still helping their children bathe and shower. And I understand. These individuals are not able to manage all of the details involved in bathing or showering without help.

Sometimes, bathing and showering is painful, I think. There are times when my girl resists a bath or shower with such force that my best guess is that her tactile system is on over-drive. Brushing her hair is painful and she avoids it with all of her might. However, the more often we wash her hair, the easier her hair is to brush and comb. So, I am motivated to get her hair washed more often rather than less often. And her goal is to never . ever . wash her hair.

I made a discovery about showering and hair washing.

Our 'new' house (new-to-us) has a stand-alone shower. It's the first time we've had a shower not attached to a bathtub. And it seems to have a lot of the right features to make showering easier for a kid with sensory sensitivities combined with developmental delays.

First of all, the shower head is taller than in a bathtub. Second, the stall is shaped differently from the oblong, oval bathtub, creating more places to stand out of the way of the spray, giving the shower-ee space to move in and out of the spray slowly, gently. There is no shower curtain. No shower curtain to monitor to make sure you're not wetting the bathroom floor, no shower curtain to dodge, to avoid touching you, sticking to your body.

We are using a mix of behavioral and relationship approaches to practice showering and hair-washing. Behavior techniques work for the discreet skills; relationship intervention works for the dynamic pieces. I've decided to work backwards, and we'll work on turning on faucets and adjusting the water pressure and temp last. I'll do that for her, for the short term. There is a lot to learn about bathing and showering. There are lots of steps.

We had no access to a shower stall before our move. It wasn't something we could do, logistically or financially, and I know that a lot of folks reading this are in that same situation. However, if you have had problems in a tub/shower combo (with a curtain in particular), and you have access to a shower stall, you might give it a try. It's a piece I had not considered before. I wonder if installing shower doors instead of the curtain at our former home would have made a difference?

As always, I appreciate your tips and hints. Leave me a comment if you have a success story to share.

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