Teaching Self-Care to Kids with Autism

August 31, 2020

For many adults, self-care is a phrase that brings to mind images of bubble baths, face masks, and deep stretch yoga. But if you ask any parent or teacher, you’ll find that self-care is a concept that is making its way to our children too. 

Manuel Ramirez (BCBA) and Allison Siegel (Brand Manager).

AnswersNow Team

For many adults, self-care is a phrase that brings to mind images of bubble baths, face masks, and deep stretch yoga. But if you ask any parent or teacher, you’ll find that self-care is a concept that is making its way to our children too. 

Classrooms are practicing deep breathing exercises to induce focus and ease anxiety before tests and quizzes. Parents are emphasizing exercise and play as a time that kids get to step away from screens and encourage enjoying their body’s movement. Even simply teaching your child how to care for themselves during bathing practices, tooth brushing, and hand washing count as self-care practices that can evolve as they age. 

For parents of a child with autism, self-care can seem like self-indulgence and may not be seen as something necessary or even possible to prioritize. But if you think about this skill building technique on a larger level, you’re teaching your child to advocate for themself in their mental and physical health - which we all know is an incredibly important skill, and one that we’d like our kids to carry into their adulthood! 


Whether the skill you’re trying to teach is simply washing hands after using the restroom or if the skill is more elaborate like practicing yoga, follow this structure to help your child succeed and enjoy caring for themselves: 


  1. Treat this new skill as part of a routine and remind your child when it’s time to do it.
    Kids are busy - they’re focused on running around, playing, jumping, and touching everything around them! If you’re trying to build a new skill, it may take prompting from you to remind your child that it’s time to do this new task. Keeping it routine (like brushing your teeth every night before bed) will help your child build a pattern and start to remember to do it on their own.

  2. Let your child know why this new practice is important.
    No one likes to do something with no purpose, kids especially! Talking with your child about why it’s important to do this new thing will help them find the value in it.

  3. Imitate and repeat.
    This one comes with a bonus for you - practice this new skill with your child! Not only will it encourage your child to do it because they see you value it, it buys you a little time to take care of yourself too. The more you practice a new skill together, the more normal and routine it will seem to your child as well. So make the time, do it regularly, and both you and your child will become masters of self-care.

  4. Bonus: set a visual reminder.
    If you’re a family that uses lots of visual reminders like calendars, schedules, or charts, you can build self-care into that representation too. Maybe you set aside 30 minutes a week for “self-care” and let your child choose music to have a dance party to - or you make a list of your bedtime practices (1. put on pajamas, 2. brush teeth, 3. take 5 deep, relaxing breaths) and place it somewhere your child will see it. For kids that need routine, knowing they have time for these things can be the key to helping them start! 

Now, monkey-see monkey-do! Pick what you’d like to work on with your child and find time for self-care for the two of you!

Our BCBAs have plenty of self-care tips to share with you and your child. Visit getanswersnow.com to learn more about us and to connect with one of our clinicians.

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