The brushing of the teeth.
Teeth brushing. A common problem in many an Autistic household. A problem which has, in the past, been a problem in this house. Whether it’s the feel of the brush, the taste of the toothpaste or the demand of having to brush our teeth, the problem seems to make something that should be a small, daily routine become a big mountain to overcome. It took me until I was in my early twenties before I could establish a routine which make it easier for me to brush my teeth on a regular basis. One a day. If I go to bed without finishing my routine then I feel odd, like something is missing. It works for me.
Then I had kids…or rather, I had my first child Polar bear and realised that I needed to set a better example and so forced myself to create and stick to a routine that involved brushing my teeth daily. Now, I don’t have a problem with the brush, in fact the harder it is the better. I like the minty toothpaste. What I don’t like is gagging every single time I brush. I’ve been physically sick at least twice, and I am very, rarely sick. I once ate a whole bag of pick and mix then went on a fast fairground ride which spun my brother and me around and upside down and such an intense speed that my brother was promptly sick, everywhere. I wasn’t.
So, I brush my teeth every night. But what about the kids? Monkey absolutely loves water, he loves brushing his teeth, he has a tantrum when we go to the supermarket if he sees the toothbrush/paste aisle and we don’t buy him a new toothbrush or some new toothpaste. The kid will happily brush his teeth four or five times a day. He’s not keen on the minty toothpaste, unless it’s the Thomas the Tank Engine one, but he likes the strawberry one. Polar bear on the other hand, hates brushing his teeth. Personally I think he just doesn’t want to do it and so will avoid doing so. He doesn’t like the taste of the minty ones (never has) so he gets strawberry flavoured toothpaste too.
Trying to make sure the kid’s brush their teeth is not as easy as making sure ‘they’ do it, I also have to get around my demand avoidance to ensure I get them to brush their teeth. I’m not very good at this and given half the chance I’ll ‘let them off for today’. This could become a problem where I’m not making them brush and they aren’t wanting to brush, except that Monkey insists every night. It’s taken a lot of struggling to get to the point where Polar bear will brush without too much hassle when reminded. It used to be much harder when he outright refused and I hadn’t the ability to force the issue. Now it’s a part of his routine, one he’ll always try to wriggle out of and one I’ll always struggle to remind him of, but it’s getting easier. Whether it’s that he now has toothpaste he does like, whether it’s the scare from having a tooth removed at the dentist or whether it’s our constant explaining of why it’s necessary I don’t know, but he’s much more open to the demand than he used to be. The demand avoidance will always be there, even when he’s an adult, such is the way of PDA.