Hygiene, Part One

“Don’t move, Gracie.  Stop biting.  Almost done… finished!  Good girl!”

It has taken years to master the art of brushing Gracie’s teeth, and I’m still perfecting my technique.  Brushing her teeth is a personal hygiene task for which I’m largely responsible.

Years ago brushing Gracie’s teeth seemed impossible, as she would bite the toothbrush as soon as I put it into her mouth.  With Gracie latched onto the toothbrush like a pit bull to its chew toy, I would simply succeed in only shaking Gracie’s head back and forth as I tried to brush her teeth.  We’d go through several toothbrushes a year, being that the bristles and toothbrush head would be mangled from her constant biting on the toothbrush. 

There was a time I had to cradle Gracie’s head between my thighs, with her laying down and me sitting down (both of us on the floor), in order for me to brush her teeth.  Her arms would be pinned underneath my legs to keep her from interfering with my attempts to brush her teeth.  So glad we’ve progressed beyond that.  Nowadays I’m able to brush her teeth without too much trouble. But more on that in a moment.

Of course, Gracie doesn’t get the concept of spitting out the toothpaste when we’re done brushing her teeth.  After brushing her teeth and working up a nice bit of foam, Gracie simply swallows the toothpaste.  This is why we use just a minimal amount of toothpaste.  Because I worried about the long-term harmful effects of swallowing toothpaste, I switched to a toothpaste alternative (see http://www.toothsoap.com/) that is safe to swallow.  Toothpaste is yet another subject that merits a post by itself. 

As I said, brushing her teeth is no longer too much trouble.  However, this task must be done with finesse.  Otherwise, Gracie will start gagging, and once this starts there’s a good chance she will vomit.  I learned quickly to have her stand in front of the toilet while brushing her teeth, and use extreme caution to avoid causing Gracie to gag.  I hate it when she does vomit, because then she must go to school on an empty stomach (being that she’s eaten breakfast before I brush her teeth).  

The last vomiting episode seems to be a distant memory.  Happy times!  Recently I started working with Gracie by prompting her through all the steps in the brushing routine.  I will have to save this for another post too, sorry.

About graciesautism

Father of Gracie, who is autistic, and her sister Gabrielle (who is a typical). Sharing our stories in Gracieland.
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