Q&A Section – How can I make hair washing less of a struggle?

Question: How can I make hair washing less of a struggle?

Answer: Ask your child (if possible) using pictures, videos on You Tube, text etc. what they don’t like about hair washing.
Based on my research and speaking with several people on the spectrum this is what I have found:

Hair Washing Struggle

  1. For some it is the loudness of having the head under the water. For that I suggest ear plugs or don’t put their head under water.
  2. Many can’t stand the feel of showers because the water pressure is so hard it is painful when the water droplets hit their skin. For this I suggest using a special shower head that can control the strength of the water pressure and even the height of the shower head like Rinse Ace Shower Head for Children or do a search for a low flow showerhead.
  3. Who said hair washing had to be done in the tub? Ask if using a sink would be easier or kneeling over the side of the tub before they get in to wash their body.
  4. Is it visually over-stimulating? Are they afraid of water going in their eyes? Consider using a dry wash cloth over their eyes. Go slowly so water doesn’t splash their face. Consider buying a visor, or shampoo rinse cup with rubber lip to help keep water from their face if they are able to tip their head up slightly.
  5. Is the temperature of the water too hot or too cold? They have tub thermometers that sell for a few dollars.
  6. Is lying back in the water scary? Some children find lying down very scary especially when they difficulty with the proprioceptive sense and knowing where their body is in relation to other things. Just imagine falling backwards into water without being able to control where your body is in relation to the bottom of the tub; it can be quite scary especially if it is a small child that can go be completely submerged in the water upon lying down. So make sure the water isn’t too deep. I have found that if my children can lie themselves down and there is just enough water to lay flat without the threat of water going up their nose or in their mouth – then they are more calm.
  7. Lastly, try rinsing their hair with their head tipped to the side and slightly up. This way you can have better control over where the water runs. Try to avoid the eyes and the ears.

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This article was featured in Issue 17 – Autism Awareness and Acceptance!

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Leslie Burby

Leslie Burby

Leslie Burby is a former Editor of Autism Parenting Magazine and a public speaker on autism related issues. She is the author of three autism related books: Emotional Mastery for Adult's with Autism (2013); Early Signs of Autism in Toddlers, Infants and Babies (2014); and the children's book Grace Figures Out School (2014).

  • Avatar Diana says:

    My son would get upset when I would wash his hair during bathtime. Tip number 4 totally did the trick. First I explained to my son that he could cover his face with a dry towel. Then I asked him if I could wash his hair. When he said yes I told him I was going to make bubbles on his head. I then rinsed his head using the towel.

  • Avatar Ingrid says:

    Need major tips on hair washing please

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