Handwashing Help for Parents

The CDC recommends that everyone wash their hands well with soap and water, frequently, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Encouraging good hygiene can seem like in insurmountable task in light of COVID-19. If your child has Sensory Processing Disorder, it may seem impossible. Individuals with Sensory Processing difficulty may be overwhelmed by the smell or feel of soap, the temperature of water, its pressure, the feel of paper towels, and more.

Below are some resources to help you encourage your child to wash their hands frequently, especially in light of more public places opening. As always, speak to your family physicians and therapists, and use your best judgement with your child. No blog, website, or advice should ever replace a licensed doctor or therapist’s medical counsel.

Library Resources

This picture book, I Don’t Want to Wash My Hands, by Tony Ross teaches the Little Princess to wash her hands with soap and water after using the toilet, petting the puppy, before eating, and after sneezing. It is humorous and short. Not every family can relate to a maid, but every parent can relate to all the ways little hands get dirty in the course of a day. Modeling another’s behavior can help children learn new behaviors. Maybe yours will model the Little Princess?

This handbook, Raising the Sensory Child by Biel and Peske, is for parents raising children with Sensory Processing issues. It includes practical tips for hygiene and cleanliness. It can be found in the library’s Special Needs Section in the Youth Services Department.

Daily Health & Hygiene Skills is a workbook for use in the classroom. It is a little overwhelming to consider the amount of information this slim book contains! However, the pages on handwashing (p. 20-22) will be helpful to parents of older children. It can be found in the library’s Special Needs Section in the Youth Services Department.

iDo Hygiene App

Apps for the iPad can be useful to teach proper handwashing skills and other tasks.

The iDo Hygiene app covers 12 self-care tasks and was designed specifically for individuals with cognitive impairment, autism and other special needs.  The app is free to download and provides two tasks (shampooing and washing face) for free.  The additional skills are available as an in-app purchase for $1.99 each, or all units for $9.99.

Easter Seals

Tips and Helps

Open this audio in TumbleBooks
  • Sensory Spectacle from the UK has ideas to avoid soap, such as using a bowl of sudsy water or a soapy towel and others on their site.
  • Sensory Integration Education has a widely shared article about individuals with SPD and Hand Washing you can find here.
  • If your child needs a distraction or a reward, try music. The library and internet have plenty of musical resources, including songs about washing one’s hands by TumbleBooks and even featuring Baby Shark.
  • Break handwashing into steps; use a visual schedule and timer if necessary.
  • Model the behavior often in front of your children with consistency.
  • Practice hand over hand until your child gets each step correct.
This tip, from occupational therapists, demontrates a strategy that times a child’s handwashing and provides a reward.

Visual Supports

Natalie Bota

Miss Natalie is the Special Needs Librarian at Westlake Porter Public Library. She enjoys working with patrons of all ages and can usually be found in the Youth Services Department or the Reading Garden. She enjoys reading picture books and poetry, baseball, writing, cooking, and travel. She loves spending time with her pets, family, and friends.