Why we paint our daughter’s nails

She’s 14 and Autistic. Sometimes she paints her own.. sometimes other peoples.

Aft Ashes
3 min readJan 12, 2021
Photo by Julia Kutsaeva on Unsplash — because our daughter was too busy painting hers to pose..

But why does painting nails matter? I mean, who in their right mind would give a disabled child nail polish!

They could drink it!

Or pore it over their bed!

Or paint a great big stripe in the middle of Nana’s new carpet. On purpose when they’re in a snit! (yep) or just by accident! (yep)

Why would you take the risk?


Well, because as a non-verbal autistic child who we work with every day to build verbal communication skills, the reward of having a nail painted drives her to communicate.

Something she’s not convinced yet is really all that necessary.

But if she wants to get painted, she has to verbally communicate color, which nail, please and thank you. That might be easy for you — but it’s a big deal to her. And to us.

She has to care for her paints; ask someone to open them for her (takes a set of pliers for those of you not in the know).

It makes her smile. She clearly loves it.

Photo by Kassidy Sherburne on Unsplash — thanks Kassidy for a great example of a smile. Our daughter is way too young for a nose ring!

And with Autism comes sensory issues. At one point in her life her feet sensory issues resulted in her walking on tip toes. Every where. All the time.

To the point where she could no longer flatten her feet.

We consider ourselves very lucky and privileged for where we were born and live. We live in Australia rather than the USA. That means we have access to this thing we call Medicare. And another thing called NDIS.

That means the government (our community in other words) paid for the operation to fix her legs. So now she can at least walk. But overcoming her sensory issues is really important to us because of this experience.

Hence we paint her nails on her hands and feet. It gives us an excuse to handle her hands and feet. An excuse to overcome sensory limitations in a way she greatly enjoys.


She will happily spend hours painting her nails. It gives her the giggles.
And she doesn’t settle for just one colour for her nails at one time.. where’s the fun in that.

And why would you settle for just one coat? And then use the same colour for the next coat? Where’s your imagination!

Think of the colours you could make! Brown.

No really. Brown. And maybe a murky shade of.. well .. brown.

And although it started with painting HER nails. You don’t think she stopped there do you?

Which was important. It got her to reach out and engage with others. Her brothers, her parents, her carers and extended family. Because their nails were clearly in need of some colour too. (Brown)

These are people who she can barely stand to have in her space at the best of times! It’s a thing — you might not get it if you’re not familiar with the challenges of Autism. It’s about noise. About change and control.

You should see my husband’s hands. Good thing he’s comfortable with his manliness. Not that I want to step sideways here into the gender wars etc!

Do you get it? Will you do it too? Let me know what happens!

What else can we do for our Autistic family and community to help them find joy in life?

Like sandpits for example?

Love Amy



Aft Ashes

Arise! Ashes, Arise! Talking about starting again — just like Frankenstein’s monster!