The First Time Taking a Bath Didn't Lead to Sensory Overload


Until the age of 2, everything seemed to be going fine. I was hitting most of my major milestones and was one of the more affectionate toddlers you’d ever meet. But that was when there was a setback. One of the major issues those with autism deal with is sensory overload. For me, this was the time when we saw a regress in my autism happening. I was nonverbal until I was 2 and a half, but the amount of texture issues I had to deal with were almost unbearable.

This brings me to one of my most complicated struggles I had as a toddler…

Water.

This is a huge issue for many in our disability community. Add autism to the mix and it can be too much. I didn’t like being in a shower or bathed whatsoever. Later, when I began to talk for the first time, I would scream, “Go away, rain! Go away, water!” My parents would use wet cloths to clean me as a shower nozzle or a tub full of water became an impossible solution. Tactile autism had become a major difficulty and for a while, it seemed like it would never get better.

As I was still very young, I really never embraced how much this may be impacting me at the time. Going from not being able to bathe to suddenly not being able to hug or embrace my loved ones was so difficult. I know it was heartbreaking not only to my parents, but to my entire family when they realized the kid who would come around during the holidays suddenly didn’t want to be touched by anyone he’d grown up with.

It wasn’t until later that the conversation changed.

A little after I turned 3, we were at a local pool for a birthday party. Like many times before, I wasn’t looking forward to the experience. My parents struggled to put my bathing suit on, and we were off. When the party started, all the kids were in the pool while I was on the outside looking in. There were also several shower nozzles around the pool. For whatever reason, seeing all the kids having fun running around the nozzles led to a trigger going off in my head.

Before I fully realized the danger that could’ve happen by doing what I was thinking, I ran under one of the shower nozzles and instead of flapping, twirling my hair, running away or doing any of my usual coping mechanisms, I just smiled and laughed with the other kids.

young boy playing outside in water

My parents were thrilled, and later that night was the first time they were able to bathe me in a bathtub for over a year. I wish I could tell you there was a miracle solution that made this happen, but there wasn’t. It just clicked, and for my family and me, that was enough.

I hope by sharing this emotional experience I can help spread awareness for the need for those with autism to get the best Early Intervention services possible to help with these overloads. For those out there who may have a similar difficulty with their children, please know I’m there for you when these issues arise. Being a part of a community is about being able to share our stories, especially when some of the hardest times take place.

Today, water doesn’t affect me at all, and I hope one day, if your kids are ever invited to a pool party in the future, they’ll be able to have as much fun as I did that day.

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