This article is sponsored by Colgate to share their contribution to the MagnusCards app (an assistive tool for special needs kids). The experiences and opinions presented here are my own and my impression of my autistic daughter’s.
Getting typically developing children to not only brush their teeth but do so properly is a challenge. The struggle to instill good oral care habits in kids is often significantly magnified when parenting a cognitive special needs child. A struggle I know very well from raising my daughter, who has both autism and apraxia. In this article, I’ll cover the challenges, our experience and some tools to help, particularly the new oral care digital story cards from Colgate that are now available in the MagnusCards app.
Cognitive Special Needs Oral Care: Autism and Apraxia
Children with autism face many difficulties related to oral care. There are often sensory issues to overcome and communication to them about the process may need repeating many times for it to actually sink in for them. The messages sort of gets garbled on the way to their brain.
Autism sometimes goes hand-in-hand with apraxia, where the communication from the mind to the body is not always accurate. This is the case with my little girl. She is non-verbal and has fine motor coordination issues due to it. This is why the same child who taught herself how to read has trouble following through with basic instructions about self-care.
Autism is referred to as a spectrum and kids on it vary widely in how it presents itself. While each kid is very different, most parents of autistic children that I know have had some struggles related to their oral care, whether due to issues in completing the steps or fear of visiting the dentist. While it may take more effort and time to get a child on the spectrum to achieve good oral care skills and feel less stress visiting the dentist, it can be achieved.
We still have some distance to go, but my daughter has made a great deal of progress in her oral hygiene tolerance over the years. We have not yet achieved her brushing fully independently, though she is improving. Flossing is still not a success for us and mouthwash is not really being used effectively (she can’t seem to get the swishing down).
Using Story Cards: Cognitive Special Needs Oral Care
The progress we have made is due not only to consistent attempts to reinforce good oral care habits but the use of books, videos, and storyline cards. Story cards are particularly helpful for kids like my daughter with cognitive special needs. The cards present each step of a task separately and clearly. As a child follows along, the task that would be overwhelming in its entirety methodically gets accomplished. Over time the use of the cards can often be faded out, once muscle memory and confidence in their ability to complete the task is well established.
Free Oral Care Digital Story Cards
Recently, Colgate teamed with the MagnusCards app to create decks of story cards to assist caregivers in teaching cognitive special needs kids good oral care habits. The digital cards come in decks specifically related to oral care topics. The deck choices relate to brushing (both typical and a separate deck specifically for those with braces), flossing, rinsing with mouthwash and what to expect at a dentist visit.
We had actually never used the MagnusCards app before I downloaded it to try out the oral care story cards decks from Colgate. My daughter likes the app and the cards do seem to be helping already in the short time we have been using them. We’ve found the digital story cards have several advantages over printed cards. Not only is losing or damaging a card not an issue, but there is a sound button on each card which explains the step. This is far more convenient when working on a task than trying to read it out. She finds the process far more fun with the addition of the app and I’ve found it slows me down, helping me help her focus on the individual steps more clearly. We will continue to use the app in her oral care routine.
The MagnusCards app is available for free download on the App Store or Google Play. Parents can also sign up online at MagnusCards.com. Learn more about the app, the Colgate oral care decks and to download >> CLICK HERE
And learn more about Colgate’s partnership with MagnusCards in the video below: