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How Parents can help a Child with Dyspraxia Brush his own Teeth

How can parents help a child with Dyspraxia brush his own teeth? A child with Dyspraxia wants to brush his teeth, but his neurologically disarrayed brain is unable to devise a plan and If it does, it is not able to send the correct instructions to the mouth, the arm, the hand and the tongue.

Young children with Dyspraxia may end up licking all the flavoured toothpaste from their toothbrush. At other times, their brains exaggerate the input from their sensory organs, and even the finest and gentlest bristles will feel like the sharpest knives against the gum and tongue. A simple activity such as daily tooth-brushing becomes a visit to hell.

Parents need not despair as children with Dyspraxia are usually not of low intelligence level, genteel, and just trying to make sense of the world. Appeal to their thinking, let them know of the importance of tooth-brushing and what happens when it is not done well, factually and without threat, and they will have the mentality to want to overcome the discomfort and learn to brush their teeth well.

When they are mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with the challenges that tooth-brushing may bring about, parents can adopt the following stages to help them learn to brush their own teeth. Bear in mind that each stage may take them a few days to learn, and there will be days when the brains become unwired and it is as if they have not learnt.

# Form the idea. Show with a model of teeth and a soft bristled toothbrush, how tooth-brushing is carried out. Guide the children’s hand using the same motion over the model. Look out for any resistance, grimace, or confusion.

# Use a substitute toothbrush. Use a finger and smooth cloth wrapped around it for those who are touch-sensitive instead of a toothbrush. Hypersensitive children may even have to resort to using only a finger.

# Practise in stages. Let the children hold the toothbrush with bristles facing them. Get them to place the toothbrush on the table and pick it up again, ensuring that the bristles face them at every retrieval. Stop the practice when confusion sets in. Practice may have to resume the next day. Add the next step every few days, depending on how fast the children can remember the steps correctly.

# Use reinforcements. Let the children watch the mirror reflection or a video of others brushing their teeth over and over again. Visuals are more impactful and less confusing than audios. Give praise and patient encouragements through each stage. Use songsor music to help the children remember the various stages.

# Be an example. Let the children see their parents use a mirror and brush their teeth step by step. Let the children follow by looking at themselves in the mirror so that they see themselves moving as the mirror reflection does. It is less confusing than listening to verbal instructions.

There is not much of a difference between teaching children with Dyspraxia and teaching other children how to brush their own teeth, except that they may need many more months to master the brushing, and parents will need to repeat and try more ways to help their children to brush their teeth.