Sensory processing disorder

Bathing a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder

As parents and attendants, you most likely know what a challenge bathing a child with Sensory Processing Disorder or SPC can be for everyone involved. The various factors that go into a bath, the different sounds, activities, and textures can therefore, be rather taxing for both the adult and child.

The following tips will assist you in making the bathing process as comfortable as possible for both you and the child. Depending on the severity of the disorder and other personal factors, it’s important to go with what works best for all parties.

What Specific Challenges are Involved?

Sensory processing disorder or SPD can mean different things for each child affected by it. While the disorder is not presently considered a developmental disability or an intellectual disability on its own, it is frequently found in children with autism spectrum disorder.

The disorder can cause an inability to tolerate loud noises, meaning that splashing or running water could become a problem. It can also cause an issue with texture and skin contact. For example, scratchy towels, hot/cold water, hair being washed, washcloths, bath toys, etc. being problematic.

With this myriad of challenges, it’s important to focus on the specific difficulties the child you are caring for has.

Tips for Bathing Your SPD Child 

Here are some suggestions for parents or attendants bathing a child with SPD:

  • Consider Changing the Bath Time
    • Depending on the child in question, bathtime could be overly stimulating or could tire them out. If it’s the latter, consider bathing the child right before they go to bed and having them exercise or complete stimulating activities beforehand. Doing this will limit their excess energy during the bath, and should help them go to sleep afterward.
    • If the child is overly stimulated by a bath, it may be best to move bathtime to an earlier part of the day to avoid making bedtime harder.
  • Prepare the Bath in Advance
    • Another suggestion would be to prepare the bath in advance. Here are a few ways to make it as comfortable as possible before the child gets into the tub:
      • Fill up the bathtub to avoid the loud sound of water running.
      • Make sure the temperature is perfect, not too hot or cold.
      • Have all of the shampoo, conditioner and other bath products on hand to make bathtime more efficient.
      • Remove/add toys that your child hates/loves.
      • Have a clean towel and outfit ready for after the bath.
  • Consider a To-Do List or Consistent Schedule
    • If the uncertainty of a bath is the main problem for the child, consider making a detailed to-do list or schedule to stick to when the time comes. Discuss the list/schedule with the child prior so they are fully prepared beforehand.
    • Doing this will ensure that the child knows exactly what is coming next – they will know when their hair is getting washed, when they will feel a washcloth on their skin, and when they are getting dried off, etc.
  • Keep Fragrance and Scents to a Minimum
  • Build on What Works for You and the Child

Stay with what Works when Bathing a Child with SPD 

It’s important to consider what will work best for you as the parent/attendant and the child and then build off of that. Pick and choose tips from the list above that make sense and run with it!

If this is something you have been dealing with, what suggestions would you add to this list? Which suggestions are you the most interested in trying out?

Scroll to Top