HELP! My Child Hates Brushing Teeth; And Other Autism Self Care Questions

Hi there! Dr. Mary Barbera here, and I’m thrilled to share with you this episode of our podcast that tackles the top five questions we receive about teaching self-care skills to children with autism or those showing signs of autism. Join us as we dive deep into the importance of working on self-care skills for children of all ages and developmental levels. So whether you are struggling with toothbrushing, potty training, dressing, bathtime, handwashing, or showering there will be something for you in this episode all about self-care for children with autism or toddlers showing signs!


  • Top 5 questions about teaching autism self care
  • Importance of self care skills for children of all ages and developmental level
  • How to use the self care checklist and digital autism assessment to identify needs
  • Strategies to make teaching self-care skills less stressful for families. 
  • How to repair up sensitivities with bathtime, toothbrushing and handwashing
  • Transitioning from bath time to daily showers
  • Importance of daily practice and consistency with self care

In the beginning, we’ll explore the significance of teaching self-care and how it can greatly impact a child’s development and inclusion in various environments. You can use the self-care checklist to understand typical self-care milestones. It is a common misconception that we need to wait until a child has enough language to teach these skills. We’ll highlight the different approaches and supports that can be used to teach these skills.

Self-Care Independence

Next, we often get questions on how to increase a child’s independence with self-care skills, especially handwashing. From not liking it, not accepting help, and even a question about how to help a child transition away from the water after handwashing. We emphasize that instead of focusing on independence, we first need to make sure we teach motor imitation skills and make things very fun so that a child can accept your gentle prompts in handwashing and in other self-care skills or else it will be very hard to teach these skills. 

Brushing Teeth Struggles

Moving on, we tackle questions on toothbrushing, more specifically not liking it or resisting help. We’ll address the common challenge of a child-hating the activity and provide helpful strategies on how to repair the situation to make it fun and reduce the fighting. From new brushes and toothpaste flavors to using reinforcement techniques, we’ll guide parents and caregivers on not giving up and making progress in ensuring proper dental hygiene for their children. We also warn that we never want to hold kids down, even if it means we don’t brush for a little bit in order to get happy toothbrushing participants.

autism self care

3 year old suddenly hates baths

We’ll also talk about the topic of children hating bath time, and what to do if your child suddenly hates baths. We’ll provide insights on addressing sensory sensitivities and special needs when it comes to bath time challenges. The biggest advice is, like toothbrushing, to step back and slowly help the child enjoy it.  From using tub toys and washcloths to offering alternative solutions, like playing outside the bath or in a very small amount of water we’ll emphasize the importance of patience and consistency in overcoming these struggles.

Transitioning from a bath to a shower

Lastly, we’ll touch on transitioning from a bath to a shower and the importance of maintaining cleanliness through alternate methods such as baby wipes if you can’t get a child in either the bath or the shower while you work through these strategies. We’ll also provide tips on gradually introducing the shower head and making the experience fun through games and reinforcement. Plus, we’ll highlight the significance of having a consistent approach and minimizing variability during bath time.

In our intermediate course, we have full a self-care module with several lessons that cover topics like teaching dressing and showering. We understand that teaching self-care can become quite detailed and specific, which is why we offer discreet videos that demonstrate procedures for independent showering and dressing, with permission from parents. Self-care is a crucial aspect of teaching, accounting for a significant portion of language and problem behavior. Not addressing self-care properly can lead to various problem behaviors, so we encourage our listeners to reach out with any questions or concerns.

Join us for this insightful episode where we delve into the world of teaching self-care to children with autism or those showing signs of autism. It’s going to be an episode packed with strategies, tips, and success stories that will empower parents and caregivers to support and facilitate self-care skills for their children. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to make self-care activities less stressful and more enjoyable. Tune in and be inspired and take action.