Eight ways to help keep our sensory kids clean
This wonderful blog post was written Rainbows Are To Beautiful.
Original Link to Blog Post http://www.rainbowsaretoobeautiful.com/2019/01/keeping-our-sensory-kids-clean-and.html
My kids have autism, but many kids struggle with teeth cleaning and bathing. Here I've got some ideas to help with everything from disliking toothpaste to struggles like getting upset because the kids have got water on their face.
When it comes to ablutions, my kids have struggles that are both sensory seeking (they wish to have lots of feeling) and sensory sensitive or averse (they dislike the way something feels). And they have this to the point where it can be upsetting for them or that will disengage from getting clean altogether. Some of the time we've been able to introduce things slowly but it's not been easy and sometimes it causes too much stress.
Both boys are sensory seekers and sensory sensitive so different tactics and products work for each of them. And sometimes their systems turn around and they'll need a different approach on a different day! I'm covering both types, but you may find one tactic works one day and the other another.
1. The toothpaste burns my mouth
It took us ages to figure out that David wouldn't allow a toothbrush in his mouth because it was covered in toothpaste. He'd cry and we'd see him scratching at his tongue. Not being able to brush your kids teeth is a big deal. Poor David had three extractions when he was five years old and I felt like the worst mother in the world. The experience of taking him to hospital and have a general anaesthetic for something that could be easily prevented was awful.
Then we found Unflavoured Toothpaste. This completely changed everything. This is a white, flavourless toothpaste, that also doesn't foam. It means there is nothing to react to when brushing teeth and it finally meant we could clean David's teeth. Four years later and there's no sign of any cavities.
There are other flavours of toothpaste that could be tried too, but if changing toothpaste doesn't help it might be worth looking at the toothbrush. Sometimes, it's difficult for kids with sensory issues to actually tell what the uncomfortable feeling is. They may think their mouth is burning, but it could be the way some toothbrushes feel.
An electric toothbrush is brilliant at keeping teeth clean but can make your mouth feel strange, and even a regular toothbrush can be sharp if it has hard bristles. David uses a child's toothbrush like this which has softer bristles that are also angled to help with cleaning. There is even a two sided toothbrush that is available to help clean more sides faster. We've also used a super soft toothbrush for when they kids are really sensitive.
For kids that get easily frustrated, a kids flashing timer toothbrush might help distract them. Our one has three colours that flash for 20 seconds each giving Jane a count down of how long the brushing is going to last. This great teeth-brushing pictorial schedule can help kids be more independent or just know what's happening so they are less nervous about the activity.
2. The bubbles are scratchy
Finally got the kids in the bath and then one says that the bubbles are scratchy? Well some soaps are definitely kinder to skin than others. Trying an all natural PH balanced or extra soft bubble bath can help with this.
However, it can often the case that it's not actually the bubbles that's the issue - it's the water. If the water is too hot then the bursting bubbles will be popping against skin that's actually being irritated by the heat of the water. The easiest and best solution may simply be to lower the temperature of the bath. This temperature telling duck can give an exact read out for you.
3. The water stings by eyes and hurts my face
This is probably one of the most common issues and spreads out into everything. We didn't really deal with it full on until Anthony started swimming lessons when we decided we would really try to help him cope with getting his face wet. It took a lot of work and getting used to but he got their in the end and was spurred on by being able to swim better.
However, Anthony's younger brother is not motivated in a similar way. He's also pre-verbal meaning its hard to figure out how to help. If he's screaming and crying and trying to get out of the bath every time we try we try to wash his hair then we have to find another solution.
There are a couple of different bath caps and hats that you can try. Some of them create a waterfall around you and others are focused very much on making the water fall back over your head instead of into your eyes. Both are worth a go if you think it will help.
However, if shampooing in the bath or shower is simply not an option then you can try Dignity waterless shampoo. This removes the need for any shampooing or rinsing. Unlike dry shampoo which is for sprucing up between washes, waterless shampoo can be used indefinitely. It goes on dry hair like a mousse, brushed through and then towel or air-dried out. You can get a pictorial instruction sheet for your kids to follow which is great. If your kids are really averse to hair washing then this could be your answer. Dignity also help you build your own sensory bundle which is helpful is thinking about what you might need.
4. The towel hurts my skin
One of my kids once said that I 'brushed them dry'. Kids skin is often quiet sensitive when they come out of a bath or shower as the skin is warmer and has been scrubbed or cleaned. Rubbing their skin with a towel may dry them off but it can also feel very uncomfortable.
I've always had to use great products for washing the kids clothes and towels which are good for their sensitive skin. However, they don't make the fluffiest of towels. You can try adding a fabric conditioner like Surcare or even popping towels into the dryer for a few minutes to fluff them up.
Dabbing the kids dry instead of rubbing them helps of course. Failing this you could try a micro fibre towel. These are extremely soft and dry you very quickly.
1. They are still covered in soap
Sounds strange but I'd get Anthony out of the bath only to discover he's still covered in some soap! Many soaps are just not tactile enough for him to want to wash with or visible enough for him to know where he's still got soap on his body.
Fun soap like Professor Scrubbington's magically foaming body wash makes it easy to spot on the kids bodies and as it's super foamy is fun to use, appealing to the sensory seekers side. Putting soap onto a kids bath mitt can help too - just make sure the kids don't scrub too hard.
2. I love splashing
Whereas one of my kids cries with the tiniest drop of water splashing them, the other can't stop splashing. In fact it's more like a wave machine or shower in the bath.
A shower curtain can help contain the water to the bath area, and a clear shower curtain means you can see the kids from all angles even if you are having to hang around at one end of the bath. Make sure to get one that's mould / mildew resistant though if it's going to spend a while hanging around in the bath.
A good tip is to trim the bottom so it's long enough to be inside the bath and down to water level but short enough that it's not flapping around in the water. Suckers attached to the bottom can also help it stay against the bath if you are having difficulty with the curtain being played with. We cover the floor in towels which cuts down on slips when getting out too.
An alternative is to use a shower. Walk in showers can be really helpful as it means the kids who have motor skills challenges can get in and out easily - and we can get in to help them if we need to! They are also often completely enclosed which means the water stays inside the shower enclosure for the best part.
3. I've turned pink
One of the reasons kids can be sensory seekers is because their system doesn't register 'soft touch'. They need a squeezy hug because they don't feel hugged otherwise, they need flavourful food because otherwise they don't taste it. When it's come to getting in the bath this lack of sense can be applied to sensing temperature. Put simply my son couldn't tell when the water was too hot for him. He'd get in and then turn pink.
Being a little pink might not seem much of a problem, but kids, especially young ones, can overheat very easily. In some cases it could mean my son wouldn't realise the water was hot enough to burn him. Of course it's important to monitor the kids when running the bath but the temperature telling duck might be useful in making sure they don't stick their hands into the water.
We've got this simple duck that shows the word hot when it's too hot for a baby bath. It's an easy visual cue for my kids and I can get them to check 'the ducks butt' as part of the routine of bathing. they find it hilarious, but if the word 'hot' is on the duck they know they can't touch the water yet.
4. The bath is boring
Splashing and getting bored can be because there just isn't enough sensory feedback to keep the kids in the bath. There are helpful ways to appeal to their senses. Some kids who really enjoy lights may enjoy some light up bath toys. We had a clown fish that looked like Nemo and some other sea creatures that flashed when they went in the water and which were quite fun.
The kids have also loved washing with the magically foaming soaps and shampoos from Professor Scrubbingtons Emporium of Clean. These bath, body and hair care products cover everything from soap to 2:1 shampoo and conditioner. They are made from natural ingredients and designed for kids to wash themselves by bursting as foam out of the bottle. Foam makes the whole washing process fun and entertaining.
If you can't get your kid into a bath at all then what about the idea of colouring the bath water? OK, might need to do more washing washing but initially this could get them into the bath. Zimpli kids do both a bathtime range of safe bath colours or even slime that you could try for a sensory treat.