Why do people with Asperger’s sometimes smell like the inside of an onion that has been rotting in a graveyard for a century? Or to put it another way, why do people with Asperger’s often struggle with hygiene issues?
It’s not that they aren’t motivated. It’s not that they don’t care. Often, it’s just that they are so deep into Defense Mode that they don’t have enough energy to care. Their energy is completely spent just getting through the day, and defending against the world in general.
Hygiene is on their priority list! It’s just #27, and they only have enough energy for #1-3, which would be basic life functions (eating, sleeping, etc), getting through the day (school or work), and keeping it all together. Often there simply isn’t enough energy left to do anything else.
But assuming you are already helping someone with Asperger’s get out of Defense Mode, what are some things you can do to help them specifically with their hygiene?
First, do deep listening to understand their concerns and experiences when it comes to hygiene related events. Once you truly understand what the underlying concerns and root issues are it will be much, much easier to actually solve the problem.
Then, troubleshoot with them to co-create a plan to address the root causes of their complaints and concerns. Remember, co-creation is key! This a two-way conversation.
Finally, help them gain a better understanding as to why hygiene might important to them. That may mean helping them understand the science of brushing teeth, or using shampoo. It’s very important to do all of this without shaming, guilt tripping, or insulting them. If your Influence Circles are not aligned during this process it WILL backfire.
Start with 1 particular hygiene issue, then work from there. Don’t try to tackle every single issue all at the same time. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient and compassionate. As they see that by working with you there is a solution to be achieved, they will start to trust you and the process more and more, and be more open and willing to engage in the process a second and third time.
The good news is that once you start to implement the hygiene process, things can change. There is hope.