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4 Bumps

Sensory issues, my son is terrified of water

He screams the entire time he takes a bath. showers are out of the question as he screams worse. He says things like "I am wet". He even shakes. He has some developmental delays, and may be "high functioning autism" so far the peds have not felt that his delays are in the autisic range, however his speech and occupational therapist thinks he may be.

Regardless, he has a huge issue with water. Its very frustrating, saddening, and overwhelming to have your child scream, shake and fight you when he needs a bath. After a while, he usually calms down and enjoys the bath... never the shower. But it can take a while, and sometimes like tonight, he just screams. I will wash him as quickly as possible so he can get out.. but its not like baths are an option... he has to get clean.

Anyone deal with this and have some advice?


Asked by daughteroftruth at 11:30 PM on Feb. 14, 2011 in General Parenting

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This question is closed.
Answers (18)
  • "Be firm and calm" is just not good enough advice for dealing with a child with sensory issues! Can you find a more sympathetic OT? My son had sensory issues & intense fear whenever any type of water (baths, raindrops, drinking fountains, etc.) got on him or his clothes. We did not force him to take baths, we just found ways to make water & washing up less stressful for him. We let him have control over how he got clean. Full baths are only one of many options. One of the things that worked best for my son was only putting a couple of inches of water in the tub. This site explains some of the other things we did like counting, music, massage, etc. Later on I also found a swim center that specialized in special needs kids. They had teachers who dealt positively with sensory issues. That was a major turning point for our son. He's 14 now and an avid swimmer!

    Answer by jessradtke at 10:58 PM on Feb. 19, 2011

  • That's an awfully drastic reaction to water for it to be a "phase". I'm not a Dr in any way, but if it were my child I'd be finding a developmental pediatrician and quite possibly a new OT. And I'd look into desensitizing water sensory delays and autistic children. Your child might not be autistic but it sounds like he might benefit from some of the therapy methods used to help these children cope with sensory issues. I hope it gets better for your little guy, how awful!

    Answer by ba13ygrl1987 at 1:20 PM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • My ds is autistic and has sensory processing disorder, and he had issues with water for a while when he was around a year old. We turned it into a game. We would do water play outside of the tub. Running my hand under the faucet and then flicking a little bit of water in his face, letting him explore/play with water fountains at church, going outside to play in the rain, things like that. Then we transferred those things to bath time. He LOVES Spongebob, so we got a watering can toy to rinse his hair with, something that comforted him. It took about 3 months to help him get over his fear of water, now we can't get him out of the damn tub lol.

    Answer by ShadowRaven at 3:34 PM on Feb. 18, 2011

  • Try giving him a sponge bath.

    Answer by Simplicity3 at 11:32 PM on Feb. 14, 2011

  • Look up tactiile defensiveness and see what it says about water. Both of my sons had problems with sand, play-doh, glue and paint. It took them a while to get over it People and kids can have this problem and it usually can cover any of the five senses. An occupational therapist should be able to tell you where you can get some information. How old is he?

    Answer by amessageofhope at 12:04 AM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • Does his OT have any suggestions for desensitizing him? In the meantime I would be moving to sponge baths. But this is an issue that should be being addressed in therapy with the OT, and possibly a sensory specialist. The OT would have information about this person.

    Answer by ba13ygrl1987 at 12:29 AM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • I had this problem with my daughter when she was a baby-she would go nuts if a drop of water even got on her shirt, & she screamed bloody murder when I tried to bathe her. I would climb in with her and rock her & sing to her, let her lay on me. I tried to make the baths very calm, soothing and fun! Sometimes my niece would climb in with us (wearing suits) and we read stories & played little games with toys. She went from screaming her head off the entire bath on to become a little water baby. She held on to the weird compulsive needing a towel whenever her eyes got wet for a long while but eventually gave that up too. I used a folded dry washcloth over her eyes when washing hair but she was very fussy about it all-thank goodness she finally outgrew it all and is a great bather now.

    Answer by drsally at 12:43 AM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • he is five. His OT said that we should just be firm and calm making him understand that its not an options. Past peds have just insisted that it is a "faze".

    Comment by daughteroftruth (original poster) at 9:50 AM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • my son was so scared of water when he was 2 going on 3 years old that he would piss himself,shake like a leaf,gag from crying so got to the point that i had to get in the tub with him.....he got over his fear real quick after that because he realized that there was nothing to be scared of

    Answer by SMALLfry05 at 4:59 PM on Feb. 16, 2011

  • From my experience just keep plugging away at it a little at a time. Let him make as many decisions about how he faces the water as possible. Realize that only washing his hair a couple of times a week isn't going to kill him. In the tub let him try toys or bath crayons. Let him play in the small water and let him learn to get used to it at his own pace. My son was nearly seven before he could handle water on his face and head. My biggest victory of the year was when he jumped into the pool and submerged himself but it hasn't been easy at all and he still regresses from time to time.

    Answer by Liansmommie at 3:31 AM on Feb. 18, 2011