How to make bath time awesome.

Taking the complexity out of washing has been life changing

Added on Wednesday 03 February 16

As part of living alone I have had to rethink how approach things.

When I first was in my new flat I thought I would continue having showers like I use too in my old flat.

However, this didn’t happen. I found showers really hard. They took lots of energy and I got very anxious when I tried to have them home alone. I got a muddle and forgot steps like rinsing shampoo out of my hair.

For the first 2 weeks in my flat I only had a shower when someone was else was in the flat, or sometimes only when someone else was sat in the bathroom.

This technique is how I now approach washing. It looks at what the challenges were and how we addressed them.

The Challenges.

A bath or shower has the following challenges:

  • Sensory overload
  • Remembering what to do and Doing stuff in the right order
  • Not falling over (showers)
  • Feeling safe and happy when spaced out, confused or managing the sensory overload.

I needed to shower more than once a week. I really needed to be able to shower whenever i felt dirty etc.


Within a few weeks of getting my flat Carrie (the Babysiiter) was visiting every night.

Originally she was visiting just to help me too relax and to help me with dinner as my friends where busy.

When she visits I get shy and hide in my bedroom. After a few weeks of visits she asked me how I was via iMessage.

I was not very happy. I felt dirty. She offered to run a bath for me.

I said no. I explained I didn’t like baths and only had a bath when I was I pain.

A few days later she suggested it again. I also said no. But this time she said ‘I will run one, and it’s optional if you want to try it’.

She ran the bath (I was annoyed). Then she sent me a message to say she had run it.

She had done much more than run a bath. She had listened to why I hated baths and done something about it. It worked and I had a bath. I now have a bath every night.

The rest of this article is about what she did and how it helps.

1: Routine + Timer.

In the bathroom she places a white board with a routine. Step by step instructions for what to do. I know the instructions but having them written down to refer to helps.

She also covered the whole process, including ‘change into PJs’ and ‘return to bedroom and hug lion’.

She also put a timer in the bathroom so I could set a countdown. I also bath for a prime number of minutes; 23 or 29 normally.

The routine and time provide structure. If I am uncomfortable being able to watch a countdown helps me to complete the task.

I still miss steps. But I am doing much much better and am far less anxious

2: Lighting.

She brought over a snowglobe which changes colours and some LED lights. She puts the lights in coloured pots and puts the snowglobe on the loo to light the room. She also hangs a touch above the bath pointing away.

The ceiling light in my bathroom are bright and horrible. The lights the babysitter setup are relaxing and nice. I can sit and watch them :)

3: Toys.

At first we didn’t focus on ‘washing’ (Another horrible sensory experience. As a child I never washed in the bath!) instead I just ‘played’ in the bath. Simply getting wet was a start.

The babysiiter brought all sorts of different toys. In the end the toys which work for me are functional. For example I have a wall mounted toy with water wheels and funnels.

I also have coloured blocks of acrylic I can hold up to the light and mix colours (eg overlap hello and blue to get green).

These toys help me fill the time. They are distracting and fun. I always thought toys were ‘naughty’ as I was too old. However the babysitter’s view is that if they help it does not matter. She says ‘autie not naughty’.

The most recent addition was a bag of ball pit balls (!), poured ontop of the bath they float and are extremely relaxing to play with.

4: Consistency.

The baths always happen the same way. I don’t have to have one but it will be on the schedule the babysitter writes when she arrives.

The future.

Our current bath routine works well. After the bath I am clean and generally relaxed ready for bed. So it has helped with my sleeping.

On days when I want to / have the energy I help out but normally the babysitter runs the bath and prepares the room.

This use to make me feel very silly and guilty. It still does sometimes. But I decided not to worry about it. I pay for the babysitter to visit and she does a good job. She often adds new toys or changes the lighting. It keeps it fun.

Even though we are not focusing on it I am getting more independent with the bath just due to practice and confidence. We’re letting it happen at it’s own pace.

Final words.

My best friend says the best way to think about me is ‘assume Jamie is an advanced 5 year old’. I have a very child like bath routine.

But it works so well. I am clean, I sleep better and I have fun. The better sleep and more relaxed mood means I am then more able to work.

This is a great example of using support well and being spaced out and smiling. I have spaced out baths, but that means I can use the energy I save to hold down a full time senior job. My job the pays for the support.

I’m 26 and have spent most of my life smelling. My line managers have mentioned it to me in 1 to 1 meetings many times. But with the new routine and support In place I no longer smell.

Washing has gone from a chore to a joy. Something I look forward to rather than put off. This technique is simple but has been life changing.


Spaced Out & Smiling is about exploring the fun side of Autism, and trying to understand what it means to be Autistically Happy.

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Jamie: @JamieKnight
Lion: @Lickr