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Washing and Bathing - Sensory Processing

Bath time can be very emotional for children with sensory processing difficulties. They may feel frightened because they do not feel secure sitting or moving around in the bath. They may not like the sound or the feel of water, interpreting these sensations as alarming or threatening; they may find it difficult to sit still in the confined space of the bath.

Scheduling bath times at a certain time of day can be helpful so that it is predictable fir your child, e.g. making it part of their bed-time routine, and making it quick but not rushed. Develop a predictable routine for washing your child so that they are aware of what order it happens in, you could visual prompts or pictures to help your child to know what is going to happen next.

You could try using toys to distract your child, and treats to motivate them on completion of the task.

Offer your child the choice of a bath or shower.

Use a bath rail if your child is frightened getting in or out of the bath.

If your child seeks sensory input, allow them to jump or run around prior to bath time.

If your child in over-responsive to sensory input or has a postural disorder, try washing them in a sink or baby bath (if they are small enough), as they this may make them feel more secure. A shower may also make them feel more secure because there are fewer changes in body position.

Use a bath mat, towel or bath seat in the bottom of the bath so that your child is less likely to slip around.

Children that are uncomfortable changing the position of their head may not lie down in the bath to have their hair rinsed; try a hand held shower or cover their eyes with a face cloth and use a jug to pour water over their hair.

Dry your child in front of a mirror and name body parts to increase your child's 'body map'.

Offer a variety of containers so that your child can pour water from one into another.

Try to be aware of the temperature of water your child prefers. Water that is warm to the touch is the best temperature, let your child test to ensure they are confortable.

Use firm pressure downward on your child's shoulders whilst bathing them as this would be calming to your child.

Massage your child with a facecloth, bath mitt or your hands using firm, constant pressure prior to and during bath time, depending on what your child will tolerate. Use pressure and downward strokes.

Place a warm, wet, heavy towel over your child's shoulders whilst he is having a bath and keep pouring water over him/her to help him/her feeling warm and safe.

Use buddle bath if your child is not sensitive to this.

Hide toys in the bubbles for younger children to find, or offer play with soap, bath paints or bath crayons if your child with tolerate them.

Use the shower sprayer for rinsing, allowing your child to rinse themselves.

Offer bath toys/fidget toys to play with in the bath if your child seeks sensory input.

Use the shower sprayer for rinsing, allowing your child to rinse themselves.

Offer bath toys/fidget toys to play with in the bath if your child seeks sensory input.

Use heavy towels for drying; use firm constant pressure. Wrap your child in a large towel and pretend that is it a hot dog roll and that he/she is a 'hot dog'. Offer and maintain firm control with your hands to give him/her 'ketchup' and 'mustard'!

If your child is over sensitive to touch, use a smaller towel which you can direct more easily. Use a firm pressure.

Read stories about bath time to allow your child to talk about what they so so and do not like about bath time.

If the sound of the running water bothers them, fill the bath before you taken them into the bathroom.

Tell your child where you are going to wash him/her to prepare them.

Use earplugs to minimise noise and water going into the ear.

Play calming music.

Sing songs with your child.

Allow your child to look into a mirror whilst in the bath to increase predictability.

Use pictures/visual aids to help your child to understand the task and the predictability.

Dim the bathroom lights, particularly of your child is over responsive to sensory input.

Use a visual timer so that your child knows how long it is until the task is finished.

Use calming scents or unscented soaps if your child is over sensitive to smells.

Allow your child to help choose bubble bath, soap, and shampoo by sniffing it before you buy it.

Let your child use straws to blow bubbles in the bath, making sure they do not swallow the water.

Be careful to ensure that your child does not eat the soap.

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