Tuesday, April 21, 2015


In Booty Crumbs I, which was mostly about how some of us notice certain things a LOT, there was a discussion in the comments about how hard it can be to get some kids with sensory processing differences to notice Crumbs (boogers, dribbles…), on their faces and elsewhere, under any circumstances.

Hygiene is a huge issue in the Full Spectrum household because G
1. Doesn’t notice schmutz, or
2. Acknowledge the necessity of basic, routine grooming,
3. Doesn’t care about either, and
4. Doesn’t have great executive function and so forgets even with multiple

Bottom line, G doesn’t give a rip – and getting him to do stuff like wash his face in the morning or clean giant glops of food off his fingers could be a full time job.

I worry about this for two reasons. First, I fear it threatens his hard-won social belonging. Second, it is part of the underlying sensory overwhelm that G experiences in many contexts – what the Asperger Experts call “defense mode.” G’s general awareness of how/what he feels – physically, emotionally -- can be undermined by an underlying overabundance of sensory and emotional information. 

Before I was aware of how certain experiences and environments affect me, I would feel anxious, desperate, dull, angry, numb – and I’d have no idea why I felt that way, and very few resources to quell these inner (for me – others may tend to lash out) storms…I now know this phenomena is known as a MELTDOWN. Things like unrelenting social interactions, feeling cold or, yes, Booty Crumbs, can trigger overload in me and lead to a wide range of negative feelings that are too big to process unless I am able to remember at that moment why I am having the feelings. I am learning to find environments that better support my neurology – and to take sensory breaks when that is not possible.  

Seeing the differences in G’s awareness and demeanor in different contexts has shown me that he is intensely affected by his environment. That sometimes means that he doesn’t have the attention or mental space for noticing stuff on his body, or doing things to keep his body “presentable.” Just as I’ve begun to address my own sensory and neurological needs, what it might take to create a context for my son in which he is willing and able to attend to his own hygiene routine and general bodily cleanliness without so much effort on my part?

Just the other night, I asked G if he had brushed his teeth.

He said he had.

I felt his toothbrush: bone dry!

Having spent several minutes brushing our teeth together morning and night for the last few years (since the dentist told me this was non-negotiable if G wanted to “have teeth”), and having each of those times painstakingly wrangled him into participating, letting G self-regulate on tooth brushing has been a big leap forward.

I was – maybe I was lacking perspective but – devastated…and mad: “Don’t you realize you could die???? If your teeth are rotten and you don’t take care of your mouth you will get diseases! And you will NOT be handsome!”

Full Spectrum Mama needed to go meditate. (Since G was a baby who needed a lot of support in going to sleep, I’ve tried to practice meditating nearby – usually in the hall outside our bedrooms -- after bedtime. Note: this does not always happen as planned!)  

G walked into the hallway where I sat, then into the bathroom to brush his teeth.

After a few moments, I saw this:

                                       Figure I – The Sideways, and Therefore “Invisible,” Sneaky Peek

He saw me seeing him:

                                                            Figure II – The Seething Meditator

…and went back to brushing his teeth.

How does tooth brushing relate to Booty Crumbs? Well, in both cases, is constant vigilance the answer? Already, with one kid with an attachment disorder, I have to watch the every move of one person in our home. With G, I’ve tried charts, lists, points…and am beginning to conclude that these are not the solution.

My own experience shows that -- for those of us with sensory processing differences -- self-awareness (emotional, social, physical…) may have more to do with finding ways to modulate one’s overall sensory and neurological situation than with the rote learning of ways to manage schmutz. I am in a place now where I am just very much hoping that somewhere in his own particular developmental process he/we will create the mental/physical space in which it becomes possible to note the intrinsic value of Booty Crumb removal.

For now, though, it’s back to brushing our teeth together.

Full Spectrum Mama


  1. Yes! My B is just like your G. At some point, I do hope he figures out that it's in his best interest - sensory-wise and socially - to be clean! I love the peek around the door and the "seething" meditator visuals. Lovely, as always. Thanks!!

  2. LOL... you could DIE! OR not be HANDSOME!

    Yup yup yup, I can relate.

    Love your drawings, btw

  3. Having the patience to wait for their developmental ability to do XYZ is where I struggle. I'm better at it in some areas than in others, but mostly I have a hard time. I should meditate when my kids eat but don't really eat and then ask me almost immediately for a snack that will result in Booty Crumbs that overwhelm all of us.

  4. Love this! We are totally in the same boat. You handled this situation so well. Inspirational!

  5. I've been thinking lately about the amount of support I'm giving my kiddo. How much support is too much when I want to teach him the fine art of independence. It's good to hear another parent say that sometimes- we just have to be right there by them for a time- especially if we don't want those teeth to rot out! Hopefully independence will come with time...

    Oh, and I love the seething meditator!

  6. My SPD kiddo also does not realize when he has stuff on his face and we had a hard time with teeth brushing. He already has 4 crowns and has only lost 2 baby teeth. After holding him down and brushing his teeth the "hard way" because his dentist as well said it had to be done...he is finally brushing his teeth on his own although we still go over them as recommended by his dentist. The spinning toothbrush helped.

  7. Dear all -
    Thank you for your WONDERFUL comments and solidarity. For some reason, blogger has changed my whole comment format so that I cannot respond individually, but I so very much appreciate the understanding and support. Oh and the SMILES!!!!!!!!!!! <3
    Don't DIE! Or...not be BEAUTIFUL ;)
    Mucho thanks and love,

  8. Love your comparison here. It makes a lot of sense (and the drawings were spot-on). I think you're an awesome mama for knowing when you need to stop and meditate...I could learn a big lesson from you.

    1. Oh thank you so so much CM -- way before I was a mana I was a yoga teacher and I found yoga to be one of the best practices for my Very active brain. Still do. I highly recommend!
      P.s. yay for my comment reply function working again...

  9. I can definitely relate to this! Big C has gotten into a new habit of lying. Specifically, he also likes to say he brushed his teeth, but didn't. He does it though with this giant grin on his face, so he's the worst liar ever (which is fantastic for me!). I'm suspecting he likes the attention it garners, but man oh man, it can be frustrating!
    You're not the only mama brushing teeth again with her boy. ;)

    1. Thanks, MC- you just made my day...in a sort of roundabout, look-on-the-bright-side way.
      I need to get better at looking at my G's face (we are both eye-contact avoiders ;) ) to gauge whether he's being truthful because the very few times I've done so when he's attempting to lie it's been completely obvious...
      Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone in tooth duty!


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