This is probably the number one most exasperating question for every parent. You can ask 6-7 times and still get no action. Usually by the time the child has reached age 7 and gone through their first horrible dental experience, they catch on. But the autistic mind takes a lot longer.
There are numerous reasons a person may not want to brush-
The toothpaste tastes terrible
The toothpaste is a horrible texture
The toothbrush hurts their gums
The toothbrush sensation is enough to drive them batty
The water temperature for rinsing is not just right
They need a cup to rinse and don’t know how to ask
They don’t see other people doing it (MODELING IS ESSENTIAL!)
Common parent responses:
“Your teeth will rot out!”
“I can’t afford the dental repairs.”
“Prevention is best.”
Spewing every scientific bit of data to back up the reasoning for brushing will also fail to get great results.
There’s one reason why this does not work: For the autistic mind, planning for one’s health in the long term is a hard concept to grasp. Planning for tomorrow is a HARD CONCEPT!
Of course, my first hope for you and your child is that this challenge just evaporates but it’s unlikely it will. As the parent, this toothbrushing request will test you and exhaust you. Feelings of resentment might arise when you see people on Facebook celebrating their child’s first solo toothbrushing event. Feelings of guilt or failure might arise when you throw your arms up with defeat. How can such a simple question cause such turmoil in us? It comes down to control. All parents want what’s best for their child. Most of us are innately tuned to be great parents but when it comes to raising a young autistic adult, the previously perceived notions of parenting do not apply. So where does this leave us with the tooth brushing? It leaves us still with a very young child in mindset. We must persevere as the parent in helping the young adult brush daily and properly. You must be in attendance- brush together! Be sure to remove the physical obstacles and ask them what they need to make the process easier. Even choosing to have the door open or closed can be a trigger for failure or success. Maybe they like to hum while brushing but feel it’s “wrong.” As the parents, you can hold on to this challenge and resent it or you can accept it as a part of your daily routine and as a chance to spend some time with your child. They won’t understand how caring for their teeth will impact their future but they do know right now, that they’re safe and spending time with you this given moment! And for that reason alone, you should be inspired to hum along!!
Have you found a successful tip or trick for helping your young adult brush their teeth? Share it here!