A difficult and often embarrassing feature of adolescence is redefining personal hygiene. Bathing more frequently, shaving, using deodorant and dealing with menstrual periods is hard enough for non-handicapped teens. To teach good hygiene to special needs teens you need patience and understanding.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Teach and reinforce the facts about sexual maturing to special needs teens in a way they can understand. There are books and classes to help you, but learning and reassurance must continue at home.
Start adding extra steps as body changes begin, one at a time, to your teen's hygiene routine. When she is comfortable with one step add another.
Begin with washing the underarms and using deodorant. Explain how it is done and why, every day, if need be. Go slowly. You may want to let the child practice washing for a few days before adding the application of deodorant.
Give your child privacy if he or she is capable of washing themselves. The simplest way to tell if he or she is doing it properly is the smell test. If body odor is still present, ask your child to try again.
Wash the child's hair. Allow her or him to do some of the scrubbing. Let your child do more when able, like wetting the hair, pouring out the right amount of shampoo and cleaning the hair. Don't forget a good scalp massage with shampoo to keep oil from coming back too soon.
Look at a youth magazine with your child for ideas about hairstyles. Keep it simple, but not nerdy. Let the child do it himself or herself if at all possible.
Show boys (and girls) how and where to shave with an electric razor. Special needs teens that need repetition to feel secure may want to repeat the process daily, even if it is not necessary.
Repeat the routine every day. If there is not enough time in the morning, divide it between morning and evening.
Put Good Hygiene Into the Routine For special Needs Teens
Tips and warnings
- Have the same sex parent or caregiver teach special needs teens new hygiene practices. A man is better at teaching a boy to shave, for instance, and a woman is better at helping a girl cope with her period.
- Watch for early signs of adolescent changes. Do not wait until they are full blown to begin to teach good hygiene.
- Keep your grooming routine as stable as possible. Do everything in the same order and at the same time every day.
- Check with the child's doctor before you begin introducing a new routine. He may have suggestions for certain products or practices that might not be appropriate in your child's case.