Posted by: monsonmadness | August 20, 2011

The 20 steps of showering

When I started this blog I assumed I would just be writing about life in American Samoa, however, I have received questions from people on life in general, and since these days this blog is the best way to communicate with our families and those who care, some of my blogs may just be about our family and how we’re doing.

Lots of you have asked how the kids are doing. Overall, they doing really well, they are loving this adventure and having a wonderful time. Home life is the same as before though, with the same teasing and annoying each other, tender moments when the kids show care and concern for each other, frustrations of trying to keep a dirty house clean, and trying to maintain a level of calm in a very chaotic household. I wrote about Mary’s toilet training the other day, and thought I’d write a post about Matthew.

You already know that Matthew isn’t like other kids. On one hand he is sweeter, more loving, more gentle and more sincere. On the other hand, he is also much more emotional, more aggressive and has blessed Michael and me with many opportunities to develop patience and understanding.

In the last few weeks we have been working with Matthew on showering. In common sense/day-to-day living, Matthew is like a 4 year old. He is actually 8 years old, but lives inside a pre-pubescent 11 year old body! That’s quite the combination. With his limited understand of social acceptance and rules, and his unfortunate early onset of sweating and body odor, he has absolute no idea how offensive his “lack of cleanliness” can be.

When we lived in Utah, we would always do a girl bath and a boy bath, so we were able to make sure that Matthew was clean and washed. We don’t have a bath here, so we all shower. Benjamin and Daniel are able to shower by themselves, and Hannah usually showers the two girls in with her. Matthew however gets very distracted by every small thing, and isn’t able to master all of the sequencing events that are necessary in getting clean. Time to learn the 20 steps of showering.

Step 1: Tell Mom that you are going to take a shower, OR, if she asked you to take a shower, tell her that you will so that she knows you heard her.

Step 2: Collect what you will need (towel, deodorant, clean underwear, and pyjamas).

Step 3: Take these things to the bathroom.

Step 4: Put your glasses in your glasses case.

Step 5: Take off your clothes IN THE BATHROOM. Do not come out and talk to anyone unless you have a problem.

Step 6: Turn on the shower.

Step 7: Get into the shower and get your whole body and hair wet.

Step 8: Put a pea-sized blob of shampoo on your hand and wash your hair.

Step 9: Rinse shampoo out of your hair.

Step 10: Use soap to wash your body. Wash your armpits and private parts very well.

Step 11: Only touch your private parts when you are washing them.

Step 12: Rinse the soap off your body.

Step 13: Turn off the water.

Step 14: Come out of the shower.

Step 15: Dry your body with the towel.

Step 16: Put your deodorant on. Do 5 strokes in each armpit. Do not put deodorant anywhere else except for your armpits.

Step 17: Put your underwear on, then your pyjamas on.

Step 18: Hang up your towel.

Step 19: Put your glasses back on.

Step 20: Put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket.

CONGRATULATIONS! You took a shower all by yourself 🙂

You may be thinking 20 steps seems a little extreme for someone of limited understanding. Most autistic children do very well with picture schedules to help them learn, and this certainly worked well for Matthew when he was younger, but now he thrives on numbers and likes to memorize things. In addition to this, can you imagine if I tried to create a showering picture schedule for Matthew based on Step 11 above?

Some of these steps are very specific, and they need to be. For example, I can’t tell you how many times I have asked Matthew to go and take a shower, and he gets distracted by several different things and then forgets to take one. I have to basically walk him into the shower myself to make sure he gets in.

I can’t tell you how many times he forgets some of the things he will need, and it is a daily event that we will see Matthew sauntering around the house naked. Time to stop that if we can now that he’s “maturing”

I can’t tell you how many times I have had to take Matthew’s glasses off his face when he is IN the shower!

I can’t tell you how many times I have found Matthew naked in a random place because he forgot what he was supposed to be doing!

I can’t tell you how many times I have found Matthew standing cold in the shower because he forgot to come out 😦

I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered why on earth he’s taking so long, and then I find him putting his deodorant on, and with each stroke counting “196, 197, 198…”

I CAN tell you how many pairs of glasses that he’s had in the last 14 months. That would be nine. He is not good at taking care of them. The ones he is wearing now are bent and wonky but they’ll have to do, especially since the 2 spare pairs that we bought to come over here were “misplaced”.

I know that lots of kids have some of these same issues, but dealing with all of them day in and day out is quite trying, which is why we developed the 20 steps of showering. Matthew loves it. Just try him, ask him randomly what one of the steps is and he can tell you. I hope that you find this post humorous instead of sad. Although it’s hard sometimes, we try to look beyond the challenge. I know that Matthew was sent to our home and that he belongs here with us. He teaches us so much. He is a precious child of God, and my job as a mother is to learn to love and care for him in this regard, as I should also be doing with the rest of my family. That’s why we’re here right? To learn to love each other, in our families, and all throughout the world…

I love you Matthew.

Here’s a great picture of our special boy feeling proud of himself for finding a blue starfish in the ocean! Look at that water, it’s a clear as bath water. Maybe I should count swimming in the ocean as getting clean. Would make things a lot easier 😉



  1. Ohhh…sweet Matthew! He’s so lucky to have you as his mother. I think your 20 steps is great- Scotty could benefit from something like that!

  2. This made me laugh! I can relate to the distraction issue – Tara is the queen of it at our house. I love that you made an otherwise frustrating thing a fun challenge for Matthew. Way to go Super Mom!

  3. You make me laugh, Helen. I love the 20 steps. They are great.

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