FASD and Grooming Issues

Dressing Appropriately With Adequate Hygiene


Does your child dress inappropriately?  Does your child have problems with hygiene?  When it comes to self-care and appearance, many children and adults with FASD have some difficulties.  Depending on the age, the level of functioning, and extent of alcohol damage, this might take on different scenarios.  One child might consistently put shoes on the wrong feet or shirt on backwards.  Another child might wear summer clothes in freezing weather.  Another child might refuse to wear underwear or refuse to change underwear.  Another child might be obsessive or compulsive about clothing or bathing.  Another child might not really care how they look, or how they smell.  Some children will be ultra clean, others will have to be cued to take a shower, then need cuing to use soap and shampoo, and may still not come out of the shower much cleaner than they went in.


There are several factors that affect self-care behavior.  Try to identify which factors are at work with your child, then you can address appropriate solutions.  It helps just knowing that these behaviors are “normal” for a child/adult with FASD and are reflections of neurological dysfunction.


1.      Sensory issues:

            Sensitivity to clothing with labels or elastic, or smell or feel of soap

            Inability to sense cold or hot temperatures

2.      Visual-spatial issues:

            Mixing up left-right, front-back

            Frustration of trying to get arms and legs in the right place

3.      Attention deficits:

            Not paying close attention when bathing or dressing

            Bathing or dressing in a hurry to get on to an activity

4.      Memory deficits:

            Forgetting how to check front/back, right/left

            Forgetting the consequences of lack of grooming in past

5.      Self-perception issues:

            Doesn’t see themselves the way others see them

            Is not cognizant of body odor or disheveled appearance

6.      Lack of motivation:

            Just might not really care how they look, smell

            The desire to not be offensive to others is not internalized

7.      Planning issues:

            Inability to think ahead about weather changes

            Inability to think ahead about the consequences

8.      Poor judgment:

            Knowing how to bathe, shampoo, dress properly, but deciding not to anyway.

            Knowing how to do self-care, but thinking no one will notice if they don’t.


The last one may be the most difficult.  This is the one that seems to remain when all the other developmental milestones are accomplished.  Things usually get easier as they get older, but the poor judgment may always be there.


© 2003 Teresa Kellerman www.fasstar.com
FAS Community Resource Center