You Have a Family Member with Down Syndrome, So Now What? Part 9

Bath IncentiveWe’ve been trying for some time to build independence in Alice, especially in self-care.  It’s been a long path and we’ve had a number of successes.  Alice dresses herself daily and manages most of her care in a timely manner.  Bathing has been tricky.  Alice has trouble getting shampoo for herself and enjoys bath time enough that she would likely stay in the tub for more than an hour.  Clearly not acceptable.  I’ve been running her against a timer with moderate success, but her compliance has drifted.

This past week, we made this sign and when she was able to get her hair washed and rinsed in 5 minutes, I marked it with a smiley face and set her to work washing her body.  We listed out everything she would need to wash and set the timer.  When the timer went off, I checked on her and she had washed her stomach and feet, but not the other things she needed to, so I drew a frowny face.  OH. MY. GOD.  It was as if I had eviscerated a teddy bear in front of her.  It was astounding.  I was now the worst person in the universe because she spent the next half hour telling me so.

But you know what?  The next bath time she got through as quick as possible just for that smiley face.


  • A piece of paper with bath steps on it
  • A dry erase marker
  • Tape
  • Access to a laminating maching


This is so easy.  Laminate the paper with the steps on it.  Tape it to the bath wall.  If you don’t have a laminating machine, you can take the paper to most printing or larger office supply places and have it done there.

How to Use

Talk about what needs to be done for a step.  Set a reasonable timer for the task (we’re using 5 minutes).  If the task is completed on time, draw a smiley face.  If the task isn’t done or is partially done, draw a frowny face or leave it blank.  If the tasks are done on time, allow some play time as a reward.


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