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Special needs hygiene isn’t always convenient. It isn’t always easy. And sometimes, it’s downright hard. But, it’s so important!
You see, as my other kids get older, they take over the responsibility of their own hygiene for the most part. I might have to remind them to put on deodorant or wash their hands after playing outside, but that’s all they need: a reminder. They know what to do after that, and are capable of following through.
For children with disabilities however, it’s not that simple. My Owen is completely dependent on other for self-care. He can’t walk to the bathroom to wash his hands before he eats. He can’t jump in the tub by himself after finding the soot by the fireplace.
So I have to help him.
It can be rather difficult to maneuver a disabled ten-year old boy in and out of the bathtub without flooding the bathroom or messing up my back.
As he continues to grow and gain weight, I can only imagine the struggle. But, I know that he’ll still need to get clean.
Here are some things I’ve learned about special needs hygiene. I’m still learning–there are still days when it’s a struggle, but it’s important and a work in progress!
Owen’s hands are usually pretty dirty. He spends most of his time during the day on the floor–either sitting up or lying down and playing. And my floor isn’t always clean.
But I’m not always good at taking Owen to the bathroom to wash his hands. This is especially true if we go somewhere else to eat. I forget before we leave the house, and then once Owen is in his wheelchair or stroller, it’s not something I’m usually thinking about.
So then I give Owen something to eat, and realize that his hands are filthy. Except he’s already shoved them into his food and in his mouth.
To get better at this, I’m trying to make it priority to take Owen to wash when I remind the other kids. If we all wash our hands together, and they help remind me, I’m less likely to forget.
For someone who likes water as much as Owen does, he fights getting his hands washed. Maybe it’s because he knows I won’t actually let him play in the water? I don’t know.
But I usually wash one hand at a time so I can use both of my hands to do it. Making sure the soap all gets rinsed off is important too, since his hands spend so much time in his mouth.
All of my boys inherited a cow lick (or two or three) from their Daddy. It’s not a big deal if their hair is cut short, but when it grows it really starts to fly.
So hair care is important to keep them looking nice. But as you can imagine, cutting Owen’s hair is difficult. He doesn’t like to sit still. And he’d really like to eat the hair that’s falling off the clippers.
To keep it easier, I sit Owen in front of me on the floor. Then I wrap my legs around his legs to try and keep him still. I only use two sizes of clipper blades on him instead of the three I use on the others. One less step is good!
I get the sides and back first with the shortest, because it’s the hardest part. He’s usually more cooperative at the beginning.
Then I switch blades and do the top. I do my best to make it look decent, but there are some haircuts we have to just stop for the day and try again later. If he’s really fighting me, it’s not worth keeping going. So I just let him take a bath to get the hair off and we try again in a day or two.
On days like that, I’m really thankful we homeschool!
Another difficulty we run into cutting Owen’s hair is the number of times he’s fallen from a seizure and had to have stitches or staples. When a wound is fresh, I wait until it’s completely gone before cutting. Otherwise I’m afraid I’ll scrape it off and cause more bleeding. So at times like this (like right now…) his hair gets longer.
Then I try to remember to comb it down before we go anywhere so it’s not completely crazy.
This one is a priority for me. I spent two years teaching in a high-school self-contained class, and learned pretty quickly that all of the other students who came in to help would much rather spend time working with the kids who had parents who kept them clean.
I don’t want Owen to be “the stinky kid.” And stink happens pretty frequently because he’s not consistently using the potty in toilet.
So baths are a frequent affair. As he’s gotten older, I’ve started using a body wash with more of a manly scent. I’d much rather him smell good than smell like pee.
Can I just say that I hate the “adult” sized diapers. They jump in size way too much between sizes.
I can put both Brynna and Simon in a size 4 kids diaper. That’s because they’re designed for some overlap periods. But I don’t think the people who design adult sized diapers care.
Owen’s too big for the biggest youth sized diaper. But he’s too small for the small adult ones. There’s really no good solution here.
I know part of it is because Owen is fairly scrawny. Jeff is two years younger, and almost exactly the same size. But, it shouldn’t be this hard to find a diaper that fits!
If I don’t wrap the diapers just right, he might as well not be wearing it. He’ll find a way to pee right out the side of the overlap. I’ve changed plenty of soaked clothes only to find a dry diaper. And that’s not fun!
While I’m complaining about diapers, let me just throw this in too. Owen holds it for way longer than he used to. Which is good for when I time it right and get him to the toilet. But when I don’t, there’s a whole lot of pee that comes out. And these diapers aren’t good at holding that much.
If someone is bored and wants to do the special needs community a favor, design a better diaper solution! I’d be very thankful!
Anyways, I got off track. Back to what I was really trying to say:
Keeping Owen from smelling like pee can be hard. Especially on days when he’s having seizures and a lot less in control of his bodily functions. We’ll go through several outfits on those days.
As he’s gotten older, his pee stinks more. It’s way stronger than my little ones who wet through occasionally. So I try to let my nose do the guiding, and make sure his blankets and sheets are washed frequently. Otherwise his whole room will smell terrible.
And let’s not talk much about poop parties. Because unfortunately Owen still has them. Just clean them up really well, okay? And break out the chemicals that you might not normally use instead of just your homemade cleaning spray. Cause somethings just need a little Lysol or bleach. And poop is one of those things!
Deodorant & Shaving
I’m not here yet with Owen. He doesn’t sweat (doctors have no idea why, but he failed several sweat tests when he was younger because they couldn’t get him to sweat….).
And, he doesn’t have facial hair.
But I know they’re coming. We’re entering early puberty now, so it’s just a matter of time. I’m trying not to freak out about it and overthink it, but the idea of shaving Owen makes me terrified! Maybe he’ll sport a beard and a mustache. I don’t know.
Speaking of hair, can I just say that the idea of trying to get smeared poop out of pubic hair makes me cringe. I’m so going to really enjoy these last few years before I have to go there!
I honestly don’t know what the future will hold for Owen’s hygiene. I’ll get advice from others who have been there, done that, and pray a lot. I’m sure we’ll do some trial and error to get things into a routine that work for us.
But I do know that keeping up with special needs hygiene is important enough that it’s worth the effort it’ll take. All kids deserve to be clean and not stink. Even if they can’t handle those tasks on their own.