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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Tips for Washing and Rinsing Hair in the Shower

February 2021 | Adult Down Syndrome Center -

Some families have shared with us that washing and rinsing hair can be a challenging task for their loved ones with Down syndrome. We have compiled a list of suggestions from families for making this task easier to complete. The list includes some strategies that address the whole process as well as other strategies that address certain steps that may be difficult. 

  • Use visuals.

    • Create a visual that shows the steps of washing and rinsing hair.

    • Create a visual that shows how much shampoo/conditioner should be used. 

    • Create a visual that identifies all the spots on the head that should be washed and rinsed.

  • Play a song or part of a song that is the amount of time that should be spent washing or rinsing. 

  • Put a mirror in the shower. 

  • Use bottles with pumps to limit the amount of shampoo/conditioner dispensed. 

  • Use baby/children's tear-free shampoo. Some people find it helpful to put the shampoo in a bottle without a label or a bottle that is seen as more "adult." 

  • Explain what rinsed hair feels like ("squeaky clean"). 

  • Encourage your loved one to brush/comb their hair in the shower. This can help get the shampoo/conditioner out and increase rinsing time.

  • Laminate a photo of a highly motivating superstar, crush, friend, or athlete. Tape it to the spot on the ceiling at which they should look when they rinse their hair. Encourage them to "talk" to the person while they run their fingers through their hair ten times. 

  • If possible, use a handheld shower head. It may help the individual have greater control over the direction of the water. 

  • Put a plastic cup in the shower. Pouring water over the head can help rinse hair more thoroughly and quickly. 

  • Use a shower visor to keep water off of the face during shampooing.


Additional ideas are shared in our Bathing and Showering Tips article

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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.