Bathtime is usually a fun experience for young children. Toys, splashing, bubbles. But it’s not always fun for parents. If your child has issues with sensory sensitivity, sensory seeking or hypermobility, you can feel like a one-armed paperhanger; juggling toys, washcloth and child!
One solution is to use a bath seat. A word of common sense first: never leave a child unattended in any type of bath seat. Just because these devices improve stability, they don’t remove all the risks of bathing in a tub. Young children need to be supervised at all times. But a tub seat does help a special needs child remain sitting and stable, and that can really help parents during bathing. Here are the positive effects of using a bath seat or tub insert:
Kids with sensory seeking or sensory sensitivity can find the expanse of the standard tub overstimulating, and in response, they may become agitated or fearful. The youngest kids can’t tell you how this feels. They just act up. Using a bath seat or a tub insert can allow these children to stay in the tub long enough to be washed, and help them stay calm and relaxed. Since bath time is usually before bedtime, that is a big plus!
For kids with instability, the bath seat or insert can prevent them from injuring themselves if they tip or lean too much. They could even build their ability to sit up if the seat is well-chosen for their needs. These kids need to acquire a sense of independence, and if they are given the right support, they can start to sit without an adult holding them. They may be able to use both hands more freely, developing coordination for learning to wash themselves and confidence in their independence.
Selecting the correct equipment can be easy or challenging. After determining what level of assistance your child needs, figure out if your child fits well in the seat you are looking at. Some seats are made for very small children. If your child is older or larger, keep looking until you find equipment for them. Therapy catalogs and sites have equipment for children with significant difficulties in holding their head up or maintaining a sitting position. These are more expensive than mass-market items, but they are often adaptable and you can remove parts as your child builds their sitting skills and safety.
Looking for more information on making your home safer for your child? Read Should You Install a Child-Sized Potty for Your Special Needs Child? and How An Aging-In-Place Specialist Can Help You Design an Accessible Home for Your Child. I am a CAPS as well as an OTR. This is a natural progression, as occupational therapists are always thinking of safety and independence for their clients, all the way from infancy to end-of-life issues.
For more information about self-care and the special needs child, check out Kids With Low Muscle Tone Can Sit For Dinner: A Multi-Course Strategy, Improving Daily Life Skills for Kids With Special Needs, and OXO for Kids: Great Tableware For Older Kids With Sensory and Motor Issues.
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