Teeth Brushing

This video shows a later stage of teaching a child to independently brush her teeth.

During earlier stages your child will likely need much more physical guidance through each step, in order to learn how to brush his or her teeth.

If your child seems distressed or resistant to having the toothbrush in or near his or her mouth, you may want to consult with a professional, such as a BCBA or BCaBA, on helpful approaches to introducing the toothbrush slowly.

Remember, it's important to make sure everything your child will need, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, and towel, is in its designated area.
It's important that these things should be kept in the same area throughout the learning process, in order to help your child follow all the teeth brushing steps successfully.
Most dentists recommend brushing for at least two full minutes, so you may also want to have a timer of some kind available.

This will help insure your child is brushing for long enough. If you've previously identified a preferred reinforcer for your child, such as a toy or activity, make sure it's readily available for you to immediately provide after a successful teaching trial.

During each teaching trial, the therapist will begin by telling the child what she wants her to do using one clear, brief statement, such as

"brush your teeth."

Here you can see that throughout the task, the therapist remains close to the child providing light physical guidance to the child's forearm and elbow area as needed.

Although the child has begun to master some of the steps throughout the teeth brushing task, it's important to remain close enough to quickly prevent her from skipping a step or completing a step incorrectly. Catching and correcting these errors quickly is important to ensure that all steps are completed correctly in the same order. This will reduce the chances of repeating the same errors in the future.

Remember, each child is different, and will become more independent at completing these steps at different rates. For many children, it's likely to take many trials over a period of days or weeks for them to begin mastering each step.

In fact, the American dental association actually suggests that most children should have assistance while brushing their teeth up until at least the age of 6; and until around age 10, children should be supervised to ensure they are brushing their teeth completely and correctly.

Please keep in mind that many children with autism can be distressed by some types of physical stimulation, and teeth brushing may be one of them.
If at any time your child is resisting the learning trials, you may need to step back and provide time to calm down before trying again, but it's important to limit any attention during this time.