Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support
Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support

Hygiene Ideas For Sensory Processing

Children with sensory differences ... painting the world beautiful.  

Hygiene Ideas For Sensory Processing

Jeanette Loftus

Child with sensory processing disorder holding clothing toothbrush
Children with Sensory Processing Disorder can really struggle with their hygiene. Self care is important but it can be quite challenging for parents who have children with sensory differences.
Not only do children with Sensory Processing Disorder struggle with hygiene and self care, but children who have Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder struggle too.

Brushing teeth, bathing, showering, cutting hair, cutting toenails and washing hands can be quite difficult for children who have sensory difficulties.

Your child can have a hard time with self care for many different reasons. It could be tactile defensiveness, gross or fine motor and coordination.

Brushing teeth provides oral stimulation and sensory input which is great for your child's development and oral skills.

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder are hyposensitive and hypersensitive. A sensory seeker is hyposensitive and an avoider is hypersensitive. A seeker may enjoy an electric toothbrush while an avoider may want a really soft bristle toothbrush. Most children who have SPD are sensitive to the taste of toothpaste and will want non-flavored toothpaste.

Let your child choose a flavor toothpaste or the type of brush they would like to try. You may start to feel like you have tried every toothbrush and toothpaste there is on the planet before finding one they like. Each child is different. You may need to try different sizes, different bristles, different flavors, no flavor, or different colors. It can also be the temperature of the water too; try using cold, warm and hot water when they brush their teeth.

Put a timer in the bathroom so they know how long they have to brush their teeth. Timers help kids stay focused. You could try hanging a chart on the wall and praise them with stickers on their chart so they can see their accomplishments.

If you are unable to find what your child is willing to use or try you could use an oral swab, NUK Toothbrush or an infant finger toothbrush.
Try singing a song they love while they're brushing their teeth. There's many teeth brushing apps for kids. Make brushing teeth fun, brush your teeth at the same time as your child, play games and make faces while they brush their teeth.

There are many different toys that can teach children how to brush their teeth too.
Remember those plaque tablets we had when we were kids? They are a fantastic way to show your child where their sugar bugs are hiding.

There's several books for children that you can read together. Social stories for kids who have Sensory Processing Disorder can be very helpful. (books listed bottom of the page)

Many children who have Sensory Processing Disorder do not like going in the bath but others love it so much you can't get them to get out. If you struggle trying to get your child to bath, you are not alone.

Sometimes a child who has Sensory Processing Disorder doesn't want to get in the bath because they don't want to get their face wet, don't want to wash their hair, they prefer showers or they don't like the feel of different soaps.
Some children want to have more control over the water. Purchasing a new shower head could be helpful or a hand held shower head. There are shower heads that also change color that your child may be more willing to try. The temperature could be warmer or cooler.

Some children may also have fear of falling or slipping. They may also not like to touch the bottom of the bath tub so putting down a bath mat or a towel may help them feel more secure and less anxious.

You could always try using a cup or a hair rinser when you are washing your child's hair to avoid getting soap and water in their eyes or their face.

Your child may prefer to be washed with a soft face cloth, puff, brush or sponge. Each child is different. You may find they enjoy one more than the other.

Using bubble bath, children's play bath foam or bath crayons could entertain your child while you are washing them. Making bath time fun can ease their anxiety. Have you ever tried glow sticks in the bath tub while in the dark? That's a great sensory activity for kids. Dim the lighting or change the color bulb in a bathroom can also be calming for kids while they have a bath.

Bath time can be a great time for sensory play too. Adding sensory bath toys and fidgets are great for sensory input.
Have you tried unscented shampoos? These can be great for children who are sensitive to smells. They are fragrance free kids shampoo. Sometimes it can take trying a few to find one that your child isn't sensitive too.

 It's okay to skip washing their hair on the tougher days. Dry shampoo can be extremely helpful on those days.
If your child is tactile sensitive you may want to try a super soft towel. Many children prefer a heavier towel too.
Visual timers are very helpful for bath time. Your child is able to countdown the time they have left in the bath. Social stories are a great way to explain to your child about bathing and why it's important. (books listed bottom of the page)

What works for one child, won't work for another child. We often have to try several different things before we find what they can tolerate.

Washing hands is extremely important, more now than ever but it can be challenging for kids who have Sensory Processing Disorder.

Washing our hands is the best way to stop the spread of germs and prevents us from getting sick.
Children should wash their hands before eating or preparing food. Children should always wash their hands after they have used the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, playing outdoors or in water, blowing their nose, touching pets or animals, eating or coming in your house from playing with other children or on playground equipment.

Children who have Sensory Processing Disorder can have aversion to smells, sounds and touch. (tactile) This can make it difficult for them to wash their hands.

Timers are a great visual too so they know how long they are expected to wash their hands. Singing the Happy Birthday song is a great way to know how long they need to wash their hands.

Some children prefer bars of soap while other children like liquid or foam soap more. Scented soaps could also bother your child too and some prefer unscented soaps.

Your child may want cold water or warm water. All children are different.

Reaching the taps and sink could be difficult for your child. Having a child's stool could be helpful for your child to reach the sink.

Many children cannot tolerate the sound of hand dryers. You may need to keep paper towels on hand in your bag while you are out for drying their hands or your child could use ear protection.

If your child is like mine, they may require hand lotion after they wash their hands because they feel dry. I have always had to keep lotion in my bag or she wouldn't want to wash her hands.

Often our children have challenges with fine motor skills. It can be difficult for them to use some soap dispensers. There are automatic soap dispensers that your child can use easily.

Praise your child when you notice they are doing a great job and encourage them to wash their hands. Often parents will have a sticker chart or a small treasure box with dollar store prizes for rewards.

When cutting your child's hair at home you can also do a little at a time. Plan a weekend hair cut. A weekend at home when you can do a few trims here and there until it is completed.

Ask your child if they would prefer to stand or sit during their hair cut. You want them to feel comfortable and in a position that feels most relaxing to them.

The words we use can change everything because some children hear the word "cut" and they are fearful. Try using a less scary or worrisome word like grooming.

YouTube have many videos of hair cuts. A great visual for a child to see different hair cuts by different people to reassure them that they will be safe and that they can do it too. It allows them to be more prepared.

Books for children that are about hair cuts can be quite useful as well. Using social stories for hair cuts could also be very helpful too. This is a great way to prepare them.

When your child doesn't like having their hair brushed there's several brushes that can make it so much easier for them. Have them choose a brush that feels good for them and you can even take it along to the salon with you. Knot Genie, Happy Brushes & Wet Brush are the most popular.

Sensory Friendly Haircutting Tips
Sensory Processing Disorder Dental Care For Kids
Sensory Processing Disorder Hand Hygiene Ideas
Bathing Children & Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support 

Sensory Processing Disorder Resources  

Supporting, learning, sharing and growing together.
Sensory Processing Flight, Fight, Freeze & Fawn
Sensory Processing Meltdowns
Sensory Processing Disorder Inspirational  Quotes for Parents
Sensory Processing Research & Studies
DISCLAIMER: I am not an Occupational Therapist. I am an adult who has Sensory Processing Disorder, a sensory parent and a Grandma. The information on this website is not medical advice and does not replace the information that your child's therapists gives you. These are just ideas and information that I have learned myself over the years of being a parent and an adult living with SPD. If you are concerned for your child, please always seek medical attention through a family doctor, pediatrician or therapist. This website is for suggestions and informational purposes only. Each child is different and what works for one child may not for another because all children have different needs. Please always consult with a professional. Amazon offers a small commission on products sold through their affiliate links on my website.  Each of your purchases through links on my website for Amazon affiliation links or sponsored links support me but no additional cost to you so thank you. I appreciate it so much!