Autism and Showering: Sensory-Friendly Strategies

Regular showering is an essential part of hygiene, and it's crucial to make it a comfortable and calming experience for your loved one. In this article, we'll explore some tips to help make showering more manageable for people with autism.

judah schiller
Judah Schiller
December 1, 2023
Published On
December 1, 2023

Understanding Autism and Sensory Sensitivities

To better understand the challenges individuals with autism face when it comes to showering, it's important to first grasp the concept of autism and how it relates to sensory sensitivities. Understanding these aspects will provide valuable insights into the specific needs and considerations for creating a sensory-friendly showering experience.

What is Autism?

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. It is characterized by a wide range of symptoms and challenges that vary from person to person. Individuals with autism may have difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication, struggle with social interactions, exhibit repetitive behaviors, and have specific interests or routines.

Sensory Sensitivities in Autism

Sensory sensitivities are common among individuals with autism. These sensitivities can affect any of the senses, including sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. People with autism may experience sensory sensitivities differently, with some being hypersensitive (overresponsive) to certain stimuli, while others may be hyposensitive (unresponsive) or seek sensory stimulation.

In the context of showering, individuals with autism may experience sensory sensitivities to water, temperature changes, sound, texture of soaps or shampoos, and other sensory aspects of the showering process.

Impact of Sensory Overload in Daily Activities

Sensory sensitivities can lead to sensory overload for individuals with autism. Sensory overload occurs when the brain becomes overwhelmed with sensory information, making it challenging to process and respond appropriately. This overload can result in anxiety, fear, discomfort, and difficulty engaging in daily activities.

For individuals with autism, sensory overload during showering can manifest in various ways. It may include feeling overwhelmed by the sound of running water, discomfort with the sensation of water on the body, or anxiety due to changes in routine. These challenges can make showering a stressful and anxiety-inducing experience for many individuals with autism.

Understanding the unique sensory sensitivities and challenges faced by individuals with autism is crucial for developing effective strategies to create a sensory-friendly shower environment. By addressing these challenges, individuals with autism can experience more comfortable and enjoyable showering experiences.

Challenges with Showering for Individuals with Autism

Showering can pose unique challenges for individuals with autism due to their sensory sensitivities and difficulty with transitions and routine changes. These challenges can make the showering experience overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. In this section, we will explore three common challenges faced by individuals with autism when it comes to showering: sensory overload in the shower, fear and anxiety associated with water, and difficulty with transition and routine changes.

Sensory Overload in the Shower

For individuals with autism, the sensory experience of showering can be overwhelming. The combination of water, sound, and tactile sensations can lead to sensory overload. The sensation of water hitting the body, the sound of rushing water, and the feeling of wet skin can be intense and uncomfortable.

To address sensory overload in the shower, individuals with autism may benefit from making adjustments to the shower environment. This can include using a showerhead with adjustable water pressure or reducing the water temperature to a comfortable level. By modifying the sensory input, it is possible to create a more tolerable and sensory-friendly showering experience.

Fear and Anxiety Associated with Water

Another challenge faced by individuals with autism is fear and anxiety associated with water. Some individuals may have a fear of getting water in their eyes or may be scared of slipping in the shower. These fears can make showering a daunting and anxiety-provoking task.

To address the fear and anxiety associated with water, it is important to provide reassurance and support. Visual supports, such as social stories or visual schedules, can help individuals understand the steps involved in showering and what to expect.

Gradual exposure and desensitization techniques can also be beneficial, starting with brief showers and gradually increasing the duration as comfort levels improve. Reinforcing positive experiences through praise and rewards can help individuals build confidence and reduce anxiety over time.

Difficulty with Transition and Routine Changes

Individuals with autism often struggle with transitions and routine changes, which can make showering a challenging task. The shift from one activity to another and the interruption of established routines can cause anxiety and resistance.

To support individuals with autism in navigating transitions and routine changes during showering, it is important to establish a consistent shower routine. This routine should be communicated clearly using visual supports, such as visual schedules or timers, to provide predictability and structure. By maintaining a consistent routine, individuals with autism can feel more comfortable and secure during the showering process.

Understanding and addressing these challenges can help individuals with autism have a more positive and sensory-friendly showering experience. By making adjustments to the shower environment, addressing fears and anxieties, and establishing a consistent routine, individuals with autism can find calm and comfort in the shower.

Creating a Sensory-Friendly Shower Environment

For individuals with autism, creating a sensory-friendly environment in the shower can greatly alleviate stress and discomfort. By making small adjustments and incorporating sensory supports, the shower experience can become more enjoyable. Here are some strategies to consider:

Adjusting Water Temperature and Pressure

The temperature and pressure of the water can have a significant impact on the sensory experience during showering. Some individuals with autism may be sensitive to extreme temperatures or find certain water pressures overwhelming. Adjusting the water temperature to a comfortable level and ensuring that the pressure is not too intense can help create a more calming and soothing shower experience. It may be helpful to experiment with different settings to find what works best for each individual.

Utilizing Visual Supports and Timers

Visual supports and timers can assist individuals with autism in understanding and managing the shower routine.

Visual schedules or checklists can be created to visually represent the steps involved in showering, providing a clear and structured guide. This helps promote predictability and reduces anxiety associated with the unknown. Timers can also be used to set a specific duration for showering, allowing individuals to better manage time and transitions. These visual supports and timers can be customized to suit individual needs and preferences.

Incorporating Sensory Tools and Props

Incorporating sensory tools and props can provide additional comfort and support during showering. For example, using a shower chair or stool can help individuals feel more secure and stable.

The sensation of water can be modified by using handheld showerheads with adjustable settings or using a gentle spray attachment. Some individuals may also find the use of sensory-friendly bath products, such as textured washcloths or scented soaps, beneficial. These sensory tools and props can be personalized based on individual preferences and sensory needs.

Consider exploring more strategies and techniques to support individuals with autism during showering. By creating a sensory-friendly shower environment, individuals with autism can find comfort and relaxation in this daily hygiene routine.

Establishing a Shower Routine

For individuals with autism, establishing a consistent and predictable shower routine can significantly help in reducing anxiety and sensory overload. By incorporating strategies that focus on consistency and predictability, gradual exposure and desensitization, and reinforcing positive experiences, showering can become a more manageable and enjoyable experience.

Consistency and Predictability

Consistency and predictability are essential when it comes to establishing a shower routine for individuals with autism. Creating a schedule and sticking to it can provide a sense of security and stability. Try to shower at the same time each day and follow a structured sequence of steps. Using visual supports, such as visual schedules or timers, can help individuals with autism understand and anticipate the showering routine.

Gradual Exposure and Desensitization

For individuals who experience heightened sensory sensitivities, showering can be overwhelming. It's important to introduce showering gradually and desensitize the individual to the sensory aspects of the experience.

Start by allowing them to explore the shower environment without turning on the water. This gradual exposure helps them become familiar with the space and reduces anxiety. Once they are comfortable, gradually introduce water, starting with a small flow and gradually increasing it over time. This approach allows the individual to become more accustomed to the sensory input and build tolerance.

Reinforcing Positive Experiences

Positive reinforcement plays a significant role in shaping behavior and creating a positive association with showering. Celebrate small victories and accomplishments during the showering routine.

This can include verbal praise, small rewards, or preferred activities after a successful shower. By focusing on the positive experiences, individuals with autism are more likely to feel motivated and comfortable during future showering sessions. It's important to tailor the reinforcement to each individual's preferences and needs.

By implementing strategies that revolve around consistency, gradual exposure, and positive reinforcement, individuals with autism can develop a more positive relationship with showering. Remember that each person is unique, and it's essential to personalize the approach based on their specific sensory sensitivities and preferences.

Sensory-Friendly Strategies for Showering

For individuals with autism, showering can often be an overwhelming experience due to sensory sensitivities. However, with the right strategies and adaptations, showering can become a more comfortable and enjoyable activity. Here are some sensory-friendly strategies to consider:

Using Soothing Music or Sounds

Playing soothing music or sounds during shower time can help create a calming environment. Soft instrumental music or nature sounds can provide a soothing backdrop, reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.

Experiment with different types of sounds to find what works best for the individual. It's important to ensure that the volume is at a comfortable level, taking into account any sensitivities to noise. Incorporating headphones or a waterproof speaker can also enhance the overall experience.

Incorporating Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy can be a valuable tool in creating a sensory-friendly showering experience. Essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, or eucalyptus can have calming effects and promote relaxation. Adding a few drops of these oils to a diffuser or using shower products infused with these scents can create a soothing and sensory-friendly atmosphere. It's important to ensure that the individual does not have any sensitivities or allergies to specific scents. Always use high-quality essential oils and follow proper dilution guidelines.

Providing a Comfortable and Safe Space

Creating a comfortable and safe space in the shower is essential for individuals with autism. Consider providing a non-slip mat or grip stickers on the shower floor to enhance stability and prevent falls.

Some individuals may benefit from having a shower chair or stool for added support and comfort. It's also important to ensure that the water temperature is set to a comfortable level, avoiding extremes of hot or cold. Adjusting the water pressure to a gentle flow can also reduce sensory overload. Taking these measures helps to create an environment that promotes relaxation and confidence during shower time.

By incorporating these sensory-friendly strategies, individuals with autism can feel more at ease during showering. It's important to remember that each person is unique, and what works for one individual may not work for another. Patience, understanding, and a willingness to adapt to individual needs are key to creating a positive showering experience.


In conclusion, showering can be a challenging and uncomfortable experience for individuals with autism. However, by understanding sensory overload, creating a sensory-friendly environment, establishing a routine, and encouraging independence, you can help make showering a more manageable and comfortable experience for your loved one. By taking the time to understand their needs and preferences, you can help them develop self-care skills and improve their overall quality of life.