Responsive parenting and autism: facing the toothbrushing challenge with fun and laughter
author By Emilie Leeks,


Toothbrushing is such a big issue for lots of us parents! Crying, running away, point blank refusing - most of us have faced some sort of struggle with our children around this issue at one time or another. And getting playful around tackling the issue is a great way to move forwards with it - the sillier the better. This mother from our Journeys in Parenting community has had to get particularly creative with her daughter, who is autistic with a PDA profile - here is her recent success story.


Toothbrushing has always been a huge challenge with our daughter (6 years). But we had a tiny but significant hit on it today - we're always having to find new games. Our new one today was that a little teddy offered to brush C's teeth with his butt!! She giggled, so then the teddy held the brush and said he would brush C's butt! More giggles. Teddy then pretended to brush C's butt with her toothbrush. She then decided that her new invention would be to glue the teddy to the brush so it's like a buddy - we haven't done this yet but we might try it! Anyway, I then had the idea my daughter could try to sing a song, while teddy both brushed her teeth and tried to guess which song she was singing. This led to lots of giggles and I actually did get to brush her teeth! Result!!

toothbrush teddy

More useful resources for toothbrushing troubles:

- Special Time helps with toothbrushing
- Using the tools to help with toothbrushing
- Playlistening helps the evening routine
- How to make brushing teeth fun
- Laughter eases the way to brushing teeth
- Special Time helps with teethbrushing

Further information

The following is a list of posts on our own personal experience of parenting responsively with our son, along with stories from other members of our community - I have divided them under the Hand in Hand tools where appropriate, so that if you are working on a particular tool you can find resources quickly and easily:

- What an autism diagnosis means for us

Listening Partnerships
- Facing up to a possible autism diagnosis
- Talking less - to feel more
- Using group support to work through strong feelings around my son's birth

Special Time
- Special Time allows me to really enjoy my son's personality

- Staylistening helps our son get past his feelings about change
- A nearly-spoiled day out saved by Staylistening
- Listening helps with resolving a conflict
- Responsive parenting with autism: a book review - The Opposite of Worry: The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxieties and Fears (Lawrence J. Cohen)
- Responsive parenting and autism: following a child's lead to work through the excitement of a big event
- Responsive parenting and autism: how Staylistening looks for a child with ASD and PDA
- Responsive parenting and autism: how Staylistening helps with separation anxiety

Setting Limits
- Setting a limit allows my son to work through frustrations - working through frustrations can be a big challenge and sometimes we need to set a limit to allow the big feelings out, before a child can think clearly. On this occasion, my feeling was that our son needed to 'come back' from the edge rather than release, in order to be able to move forwards

- Playlistening helps the evening routine
- Playlistening helps us relax about name calling!
- Responsive parenting and autism: turning things around with a pillow fight
- Responsive parenting and autism: using Playlistening to help with off-track behaviour towards a younger sibling

And these were written before my Hand in Hand days, but may help to give a picture of where we were at:
- Needing a hug - all about things getting tough for me one day, and how our oldest responded
- The thanks you get - hearing my son accepting my apology for not being the calmest mummy!
- Evening routine brainstorm! - taking time out to plan for predictably difficult times
- Staying Calm!! - how avoiding blame and recrimination helped our son realise a mistake
- Blood, apologies, and compassion - again, how compassion comes out of staying calm

A word or two about Journeys in Parenting: a blog about our experiences on the path of peaceful parenting…

We are a family of 5, living in Berkshire in the UK. I (Emilie) am married to the rather wonderful and (thank goodness!) supportive Stuart, and we have 3 young children, aged 9, 6, and 4. I decided to start this blog after a few enquiries from friends and acquaintances about what our parenting style is all about. I hope that writing about the peaks and pitfalls of our peaceful parenting journey will help others in a similar position - i.e. wanting to make changes to their parenting, but not quite sure where to start! It's very much an ongoing journey for us, and in no way do we claim to have all the answers, but we hope that reading about trying to support our children in a peaceful, responsive way that works for our family will perhaps inspire others to find their own path too.

And to all parents out there reading this: I hope this will be a mutually supportive resource. It is not intended to be a comment on any parenting style which is different from ours, rather it reflects what is working for our family and that which might be useful for others - the article I Am Not a Better Mother Than You says it better than I ever could! I fully welcome respectful comments and questions (e.g. in the vein of "I have found X works well for me" rather than "You shouldn't do it like that") - please try to avoid judgement of others when posting. I have no problem with my ideas being politely questioned, but if our overall parenting style is not for you, please do feel free to go and find other resources which are a better fit for you. Best of luck to everyone, as I know we are all doing the very best that we can for our children, no matter which paths we take!

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