Hygiene and Cleanliness

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Not all hygiene strategies will work for all people with FASD. It will take trial and error to determine what works for each family. What is critical is routine, repetition, organizational structure, and being willing to try new ways of handling hygiene training.

Hygiene Supplies

  • Keep supplies like shampoo, body wash, combs, and toothpaste in a single storage container. Place the container in a specific location.
  • Let the individual with FASD help choose the supplies. This increases the enjoyment of using one's own items.
  • Color-code and or label items such as towels, toothbrush, comb, and the storage container for quick identification.

Hygiene Routine

  • Begin a routine with the child with FASD of daily bathing and shampooing at an early age. By establishing a routine, the individual does not have to remember when the last shampoo occurred or determine if a bath is needed.
  • If overly long showers are a problem, put a timer in the shower that shuts it off.
  • If overfilling the tub is a problem, use indelible ink to draw a line on the bathtub to prevent the child from overfilling the bath.
  • Keep that hot water tank temperature down or invest in a scald-guard faucet. This is essential for children with FASD who do not have a normal sense of pain and temperature.
  • Keep a daily task checklist. It can be in the form of a chart card file, or whatever works best for the individual. The checklist can combine pictures and words and include the specific time for each task.
  • Begin the routine of using deodorant at an early age, before the onset of puberty. This routine should be established early because by the time the child needs it, they will have become used to it.
  • Model shaving with an electric razor, long before it is time for the individual with FASD to shave. When it is time to learn to shave, pick an electric razor that best suits the individual, and encourage the use of pre-shave lotion. As with bathing, encourage daily shaving to establish a routine.
  • Post a homemade STOP sign on the bathroom door that lists the crucial items that must be done before leaving the room.
  • Establish a routine of checking the list (flush the toilet, turn off the water, get dressed, etc.).

Grooming

  • When the individual with FASD is old enough, begin teaching him combing and styling their own hair.
  • Have family members model taking care of grooming needs in view of the individual, and talk about how important and enjoyable grooming is.
  • When the child is in school, include activities related to hygiene on your child's daily plan, such as learning to check one's hair and face in the mirror when in the bathroom and washing hands at each visit.

Modesty

  • People with FASD often become engrossed in what they are doing and do not think about consequences, such as someone seeing them unclothed. Though it is difficult to instill a sense of modesty, parents can teach skills that will protect their modesty.
  • From an early age, make it an after-shower routine that people in the family dress in the bathroom into street clothes or nightclothes. When not taking a shower the routine is to dress in the bedroom.
  • Develop a concise easy-to-understand explanation of modesty and discuss it as needed, starting with every shower or bath. You will need it less often over time.

Clothing

  • Devise organizational techniques for hanging and storing clothing. Place picture codes on dresser drawers, or use under-bed storage drawers or colored boxes for keeping items together. Hang coordinated outfits together on combination hangers.
  • For winter climates, pin a hand-drawn thermometer beside the inside of the bedroom or closet door with a red line drawn on it at  the temperature for which heavy clothing must be worn.
  • Role model checking for spills or stains, and for taking notice of clothing wear and tear. If a spill occurs, teach the FASD-affected individual how to tend to it with spotting solution or dabbing with water. Encourage the individual to monitor the condition of their clothing.
  • Role model sorting laundry and using the washer and dryer (with supervision)

Puberty

Puberty marks a new stage of life, a growing up and growing away from dependence on parents. People with FASD undergo all of the same difficult changes as do neurotypical (NT) youth , but their developmental and behavioral disabilities can cause even more complications.
  • Talk to your child about body changes casually, incorporating discussions into everyday life. When puberty approaches, talk about the changes before they occur. If you see sign of early puberty, seek information and medical advice.
  • Even if your child has an Average IQ, get materials on puberty for young people with mental retardation. These materials use simple explanations and illustrations that are helpful for children with FASD, who have difficulty understanding abstract concepts.
  • Fathers, uncles, or older brothers (or mothers, if they are comfortable) should discuss nocturnal emissions ("wet dreams") and other normal characteristics of puberty in boys whenever they begin.
  • Mothers or sisters may be able to talk about their own menstruation cycle and care in a natural way before the daughter's cycle begins.
  • Establish a schedule for changing menstrual pads if remembering is a problem. Maintain this schedule whether or not a change is needed.

Useful Links

FASD and Grooming Issues: Dressing Appropriately with Adequate Hygiene
Sexuality
Easy Tips – Personal Hygiene for Your Health and Others
Adaptive Aids for Persons with FASD