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Promoting independence during shower time

Showering is one of the self-care skills in human’s daily life. Every child will eventually be taught, or learn through experiences on how to shower themselves with increased independency as they grow older.

Shower is a process of cleaning yourself while standing under the water spraying from the shower head”

“Bathing is a process of cleaning yourself while immersing into a tub of water.”

For children with special needs,

showering can be a process that is really enjoyable, or overwhelming and intense as it involves different sensory inputs, e.g. the smell of the shampoo, the temperature of the water splashing on the body, the visual of the bubbles foam, the soapy feeling of shower gel on palms and many more. As showering also requires so many small yet detailed steps, it can be really challenging for children who has motor planning difficulty, poor core muscles strength, fine motor skills delay etc.

Let’s think for a moment, what could be the steps involved during shower?

For example, before we put on shampoo and shower gel, our hair and body have to be rinsed with water. In order to have the water rinsing on us, we have to stand under the shower nozzle, then the tap has to be turned on by reaching our arms forward to grip the shower tap to rotate it.

If your child takes shower in a bathtub, or doing bathing instead of showering, consider the factors on how the child get into the bathtub independently and safely.


If you have been following us since the first post, you must have seen the 4 techniques introduced, which are Opportunity, Analyze, Maintain and Modify (OAMM). If you have not heard of it, click here!

Let’s look at the scenario, and how the techniques can be applied to promote more independence.

Alex is a 6 years old boy with low muscles tone. Due to Alex poor core muscles strength, he finds it challenging to stay balanced while standing on the wet floor, especially when he has to bend down to reach for his lower body. Alex wants his mom to physically support him for most of the time during shower as he feels insecure and always worry about falling. This has impacted on his ability to perform shower by himself.

How to do it differently?

1. Modify by providing a non-slippery stool (or small chair) for Alex to sit throughout shower. As Alex feels more secured now, this creates opportunity for him to perform some shower steps by himself without worrying to slip.

2. After analyzing the steps required to open the tap, parent finds that Alex couldn’t turn on the shower tap by gripping the tap and rotating it to the side.

3. This provides another opportunity to incorporate activity requires gripping strength during shower time through squeezing activity. For example, Alex can use a shower sponge when lathering the body with body wash, and he can practice squeezing the soap or water out of the sponge.

4. This step can be maintained as he showers every time.


Other strategies :

1. Timer. This acts as a reminder for child who has a hard time to end shower time.

2. Visual schedule. Helps to sequence and follow the steps during shower.

3. Social story. Prepares child on what to expect during shower, so that they don’t feel overwhelmed with the sensory inputs.

4. Counting. E.g., Count to 10 while conditioning the hair with shampoo. Another alternative would be singing a song.

5. Labelling. Paste 1 on the container to indicate 1 pump of shampoo.

Again, each child has their unique ways of learning and functioning in daily life. You may talk to your Occupational Therapist to address your concerns specifically according to your child’s ability and capability.

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