Personal Hygiene

autism We have to remind our 16 and 21 yr old Aspie to take baths, wash their hair, wash her hands, brush teeth, comb hair, change clothes, wear things that match, and wear deodorant.   My husband felt like I was enabling my 16 yr old by combing her hair.  He felt like if I kept doing it for her she’d never learn.  Most 16 year old wouldn’t want mom to comb their hair.  But I knew if I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done and I would be setting her up for more social rejection.  Her older sister went through the same thing until one day she decided she could do it and has done it ever since.  I believe my 16 year old will get there too.  We need to keep remembering that our Aspies mature later than their age level.  

I may have overstressed cleanliness and neatness.As a child he was almost always clean; hair cut short, neat and combed and wore nice clothes that matched.  As he got older the struggle became bigger until I finally lost that battle.   Today he has no problem with tearing a greasy engine apart, working on it for a few days (around the clock) then coming in the house leaving a trail of grease behind him.  After he goes back out, I get the Windex and spray door knobs, the telephone, walls that he bumped against and the floor where he tracked in etc. and I am not a happy mama!  I asked him many time to please wash before he comes in.  He is focused on that engine and can’t seem to compute the necessity of switching to issues of cleanliness.  Sometimes he apologizes and will try to clean up his mess.  He doesn’t do it to make me aggravated, he just doesn’t think because his focus is the engine.

He used to take a bath once a week “whether he needed it or not” :~(  and that’s after he’s smelling so strong of grease, stale cigarette smoke and body odor, that everybody is complaining about it. (Now he probably doesn’t get one once a month)  I’ve seen him get in line at the bank and watched people back away from him.  Again he’s oblivious to the social implications of looking and smelling dirty.  When he tries to clean up, without thinking, he’ll drop his dirty coveralls on the floor of his place and walk over them until he needed them again! 🙁

His living quarters are a mess.  I try to ignore it as long as I can, finally one day I’ll take something out to his little place and become so appalled at what I see that I roll up my sleeves and start pitching trash, scrubbing and cleaning.  I carry in loads of dirty laundry and wash, dry and fold for a couple days.  Finally after a several days of hard work and carrying out garbage bags of trash, the place looks “sorta” livable again.  Then he comes home and is upset at me for “messing up” his place.   I am learning to close my eyes to his mess.  I don’t have any answers to that issue because there is just so much you can do when they’re 40!

My husband used to comment, “If I’d have just trained him better from little up, I wouldn’t have these messes today.”  I DID train him better, but my training didn’t connect with his way of thinking.  My daily, repetitious, clean routine, in his early life, did not make a difference.  I think this comes under the heading of the serenity prayer; “Lord help me to change the things I can, to accept the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  I can continue to be frustrated at his lack of cleanliness and order.  I can worry myself sick about it, or I can accept that fact that that’s how he is and I can’t change him, and love him in spite of the dirt.  I can make and enforce rules about him bringing his dirt and grease in our home.  I will probably continue to fuss at him for bringing it in, but if I haven’t made him see the light in 40 years of trying, it probably “ain’t gonna happen!”  For my sanity I have to love him for who he is and see past his dirt and grease.

I’ve got to focus on his good points.  He’s a guy with a big heart that in cold icy weather will drive up and down the interstate looking for stranded vehicles so he can help them get going again. If they give him a few dollars for helping he’ll gladly accept it but if they don’t that’s fine too.  Money isn’t a big deal to him.  He just loves to be needed.

How would you address his cleanliness issue?

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0 thoughts on “Personal Hygiene

  • June 10, 2009 at 4:40 am

    Maybe you could point out that people don’t trust people that aren’t clean, so he has to take regular baths if he’s going to help people?

    Maybe get him into a routine?  I’m really not sure, but at least you have a lovely boy with a big heart.  Of course you could always tell him that if he doesn’t have a bath at least once every two days, you’ll wash him off with the cold hose outside?  But that seems harsh.

    Good Luck.

  • June 5, 2009 at 12:06 am

    Isn’t that the truth!!!! We’re back from our CA trip so as soon as I catch my breath I’ll start writting again! 🙂

  • June 3, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Training kids is one thing, training an autistic is a bit more challenging – in our experience.


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