Autism Awareness Month: Teeth

For Autism Awareness Month, I’ll be posting about life with autism. Tonight it’s about toothbrushing, which can be very difficult to accomplish with autistic children.

Bede has not had his teeth brushed for ten months. Yes, ten months. One night, I stupidly used an electric toothbrush and powerful mint toothpaste and he’s been against it ever since. I offered about once every two weeks to try to get him to agree to it and it has been frantic, panicked NO. However, I thought that maybe the move to the new house would help since everything here is “new”. I bought a new (non-electric!) toothbrush and some much milder toddler toothpaste and here’s how it went.

Me: Hey, I got a new toothbrush for you.

Bede: No, not a toothbrush.

Me: Yes, a toothbrush.

Bede: NO. NOT. A. TOOTHBRUSH.

Me: -gets toothbrush, adds microscopic amount of Tom’s Silly Strawberry-

Bede: That’s Mama’s toothbrush.

Me: It’s Bede’s toothbrush.

Bede: NO. MAMA’S. TOOTHBRUSH. -pushes my hand to my mouth-

(*Notice he’s not leaving, though, which is why I pressed on*)

Me: Okay. My turn, then, your turn. -skims own teeth with brush- Say, “Eeeeee”

Bede: Eeee – NO.

Me: It’s okay. “Eeeeee”

Bede: Eeeee… -allows brush to touch his teeth and go back and forth for less than three seconds-

Me: Hey, Bede! Great toothbrushing! Way to GO, buddy!

Bede: (triumphantly) Good job! Toothbrushing! That’s Bede’s toothbrush!

-fin-

It was SO HARD not to push my luck, and try to get him to open his mouth. But I know I can get there, and if I force the issue now, he might never let me near him with a toothbrush again. Over the next few weeks I’ll do a little more each time, brushing twice or three times a week. I’ll be simultaneously pushing him to do it himself. My goal is in six months to have a seven year old boy who can simply brush his teeth when told to do so.

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