How to teach my Autistic/ Special Needs Child to Spit Out Toothpaste?
Welcome back to Best Case Parenting. Today, we will be talking about the best way to help an autistic child to spit out toothpaste. In fact, the advice held within this article would be suitable for a wide range of special needs children. Hopefully, after reading this short article, you will feel better equipped to deal with this problem.
The short answer would be this. To get your autistic or special needs child to spit out toothpaste, simply start by demonstrating the entire process to them. Brush your teeth alongside their's. If the problem persists, you can turn the spitting action into a fun game and back this up further with the use of social stories.
For the longer and more detailed explanation, please continue reading below.
Why should you worry about a child spitting out toothpaste?
You may be wondering what the big deal is with a child not spitting out toothpaste after brushing their teeth. Well, the simple answer is fluoride. Fluoride is in most toothpastes that we commonly use, and is not something we are supposed to swallow in anything but small quantities.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a natural substance found throughout the earth's crust. In fact, it's the 13th most commonly found element in the earth's crust, so it's pretty widely available! Because of this, it can be found in small amounts in most fresh water (such as rivers and lakes), and can even be found in vegetation. For those wanting a more technical explanation, you should head over to this excellent Wikipedia page.
Why do people put fluoride in toothpaste?
Fluoride has often been thought of to help strengthen the enamel of our teeth, and therefore help prevent the onset of tooth decay. I am originally from the United Kingdom, and there they have even been putting small amounts of fluoride in the water supply for many years.
Why can't we swallow Fluoride toothpaste?
Fluoride in small amounts is widely regarded as fine, but the larger amounts found in toothpaste can be bad for your health if swallowed regularly. If you swallow a lot of fluoride, you are more likely to develop a condition called fluorosis. You are more likely to contract fluorosis in the first eight years of your life, so this is doubly important for children. Fluorosis is bad, because essentially fluoride will start taking the place of calcium in your bones.
Flouride is not the only reason why we don't want our child to swallow toothpaste. Do you really want them to swallow the plaque and bacteria they just brushed off their teeth?
What is the simplest way to teach a child to spit out toothpaste?
Demonstrate/ Brush Teeth Together
The simplest way to teach any child how to spit out their toothpaste is to demonstrate to the child. I would recommend starting first by just using plain water when you brush your teeth. Brush your teeth alongside your child, showing them the steps together.
When they see you spitting out the 'toothpaste', your child should start to copy. Try this for a few weeks at least before choosing to use any of the other techniques explained in this article. It may take time for your autistic or special needs child to take this on board, and start spitting out their 'toothpaste'. Once they get the idea, you can start using real toothpaste.
Make it a Game
If you are really struggling with your child's ability to spit out toothpaste, you can make it into a game. Maybe go into the garden and play a spitting water game. Just be sure to tell your child they can only play this game with their Mummy or Daddy, as you don't want them spitting in public!
Some other experts may advice using a heavy object (such as a rubber ball), for your child to practice spitting. To me, this idea is crazy, especially with a special needs or autistic child. If they try to swallow it, you may find yourself phoning for an ambulance!
Another game that may help is by putting a cup in the middle of the sink when you ask your child to brush teeth, and challenge them to see if they can spit their toothpaste into the cup. This type of target game could turn the act of spitting out toothpaste into a fun game. As with before, you should do this alongside your child at the beginning to demonstrate what you want them to do.
What other solutions are there?
You may still find your autistic or special needs child struggling to learn how to spit out toothpaste, or they may starting spitting at inappropriate times. To help a child learn about spitting, and when you can and can't spit, I would recommend the use of social stories. Social stories are a great way to regularly help your child understand normal routine or the 'social norms' that they might not be naturally aware of.
Try and find a story which clearly depicts the process of brushing your teeth, something that your child will start learning over time.
A good example is this book by Howard Hughes titled How to Brush Your Teeth with Snappy Croc. Simply read this book to your child once a week, to help them understand the 'normal' process of brushing teeth.
You can couple this with another excellent social story about why we shouldn't spit in public. Click the image below to view this book on Amazon.
Actually, social stories are an excellent resource to help an autistic or special needs child with a wider variety of social norms and expectations. I highly recommend this social story book by Christine Schwab over on Amazon. Again, click the image to find out more.....
Taking Fluoride out of the Equation!
Another approach you could take is to remove fluoride from the situation entirely. There are a growing number of fluoride free toothpastes you could use, which would then mean you could relax about your child swallowing their toothpaste.
My personal recommendation would be Theodent, which uses a non-fluoride formula that is at least equally as good at protecting your child's teeth enamel. They also have a child specific version available. You can click the image below to go and check Theodent out on Amazon.
Hopefully, that helps!!
I understand that it can be challenging having a special needs or autistic child, and there can be many obstacles to tackle each and every day. Hopefully, this article has helped ease the stress of one of those obstacles!
If you have any of your own tips about helping an autistic/ special needs child with spitting out toothpaste, we would love to hear all about them in the comments section below.
Finally, I want to tell you about a cool autism related magazine that may interest you. It is called Autism Parenting Magazine, and we have a review if it over HERE.