Who said that only Occupational Therapists can give sensory therapy? Most children with autism need a balanced sensory diet, that is, opportunities to participate in a variety of sensory activities and experience all the different sensations over the day. Although the level and type of sensory input each child needs is different, they all benefit from sensory input during bath time.
So what is bath time with your child like? Is it a hurried time, where you are struggling to get it done and over, or is it a relaxed time for both you and your child? Here are a few ideas to help you convert bath time into a sensory therapeutic experience. I’ve written these pointers keeping a child between 2 and 8 in my mind, so you may need to adapt the ideas for an older child.
Preparing for bath time:
- Schedule 45 minutes to an hour for bath time. It can’t be therapeutic if you are in a hurry.
- Prepare to give your child your full attention. Leave your cell phone behind.
- Fill the tub with water of a comfortable temperature.
- Experiment with a variety of bath salts/ aromatic bath gels. Be cautious of allergies and toxins.
- Ensure that the lighting is comfortable for your child.
- Keep a variety of bath toys, including noise making or squeaky toys if your child enjoys them.
During bath time:
- Get your child involved in the bathing routine, right from taking off clothes and putting them into the laundry basket to rubbing themselves with a sponge.
- Use one or more scrubbers or sponges of different textures to rub your child while they are in the water.
- Spend time shampooing your child’s hair and massage it in the process.
- Sing favorite songs and rhymes if your child is younger and is developing language.
- If your child can communicate, this might be a great opportunity to talk.
After bath time:
- Rub your child with a soft towel. Take time to rub. Keep in mind that the purpose is not only to get your child dry, but also to give him/her a different type of sensory experience.
- Rub lotion on your child. As you do that, massage his/her body. Also get the child involved in rubbing lotion on himself/herself.
- Get your child involved in putting on clothes.
When you do something for the child, you give the child a sensory experience, and that is important. But also keep in mind that, when the child himself does something, like rub lotion on himself, it helps to develop his body image and helps the development of the sensory systems in a different way. So make sure that there is a combination of the two.
Some children may not like or may not be able to tolerate some of the steps mentioned above like being rubbed by a towel. In that case, try and change the material to something softer and less offensive, and slowly help your child get used to a variety of textures and sensations.
I know bath time might be a difficult time for a lot of parents with children with autism. If your child resists bath time, try and change some of the sensory aspects of bath time to see if they cooperate better.Some ideas include changing the temperature of the water, sponge baths instead of tub baths, changing the lighting and changing the sponge or washcloth. In addition, routines before and after bath time can help some children. Most of all, be patient and sensitive to what your child is trying to communicate.
So now that you’re armed with all these tips and advice, prepare for bath time, and make it therapeutic!
Do you have any pointers to add?