Leah I. Stein, José C. Polido, Sharon A. Cermak; Oral Care and Sensory Concerns in Autism. Am J Occup Ther 2012;66(5):e73-e76. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2012.004085.
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We examined sensory-related aspects of oral care at home and the dentist’s office in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their typically developing (TD) peers. Results from parent questionnaires (n = 196 ASD, n = 202 TD) and one focus group were analyzed to determine whether sensory experiences were different between groups. Significantly more parents of children with ASD reported difficulties with sensory-related oral care variables in the home and dental office; this finding was supported by qualitative data. Using sensory strategies to modify the environment may enhance the dental experience and improve quality of life for children with ASD and their families.
Do parents of children with ASD report greater challenges in sensory-related home oral care compared with parents of typically developing (TD) children?
Do parents of children with ASD report greater challenges in sensory-related dental office oral care compared with parents of TD children?
Are stories from mothers of children with ASD consistent with findings from surveys investigating oral care at home and the dental office?
I had to brush his teeth for the first 9 years of his life, and every single time it was a battle. Every night. And we only brushed teeth once a day and that’s all I could handle. And yeah, it was never not a battle. When he was little, we had to force him down and open his mouth and brush his teeth. . . . Everything, every single step along the way is a battle.
It’s hard to get a toothbrush in his mouth, and when we do . . . he will only let us brush the side, like the outer sides, but you can’t do the inner sides. So anything that would include touching his tongue or that inside area is nearly impossible to do.
make equipment that’s less noisy. I mean, I think that would be good for everyone, not just autistic kids, because that zzzzzz noise. . . . I know my son hates that noise, so I’m just wondering if equipmentwise there is anything else that could make it less.
Oral care is an ADL that may be challenging for people with ASD.
Sensory processing difficulties may negatively affect participation in oral care, both in the home and at the dental office.
Occupational therapists are uniquely qualified to address sensory sensitivities as they relate to oral health. Occupational therapy interventions can take place at the person, task, or environment level.
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