Dyslexia and Me: It’s Personal
Dyslexia is just about reading and writing isn’t it? Think again!
Recently I was discussing the personal hygiene of dyslexic children on one of the dyslexia forums. Reading the stories of the struggles mothers were having getting their kids to brush their teeth, brush their hair, take a shower or bath or even making sure they were clean and dry after visiting the toilet got me thinking. I remember the problems my mum had trying to get me to shower or brush my teeth, so I thought that this would be an excellent topic to discuss on the blog. It is something I hadn’t really thought of myself, but I do remember the tantrums and bawling matches with my own mum.
Growing up I hated having a bath. I didn’t like getting water in my face and the whole experience of sitting in a bath for me seemed a waste of time that I could be using for playing or listening to music or watching TV. When we had a shower installed, I was a little bit happier as I didn’t feel I was sat in my own filth. However, my hatred of water on my face and the feeling of wasting my time didn’t diminish.
I clearly remember one tantrum where my mum told me I had to have a shower or else (I can’t remember what the else was, probably that she would put me in the bath herself). I was so cross and the tantrum so bad that I remember I ripped all the buttons from my shirt in anger like the Hulk! I was a teenager then and was furious that my mum wouldn’t let me deal with things my own way.
I still am not keen on showers or baths. I won’t go anywhere without having a shower, I do care about personal hygiene so I have developed some strategies.
- I don’t put water on my face, instead I use face wipes to clean my face. It saves me from freaking out and feeling uncomfortable with water on my face.
- I tend to take my iPad into the bathroom with me so I can listen to music at the same time as taking a shower or having a soak in the bath. It makes me feel like I am doing something at the same time. Listening to music is one of my favourite things. I end up singing and dancing along to Eric Clapton. As a teenager we had a waterproof radio in the shower so I would listen to Colin and Edith on Radio One.
Brushing my teeth twice a day does happen as recommended by dentists everywhere, but even now there are times where I completely forget. I used to be a lot worse. I hated the taste of mint toothpaste and I tried to convince my mum to buy an alternative toothpaste. Alas, my pleads were ignored as it was 2 against 1 in our house.
It was more my forgetfulness that was the issue, as it is now. When I’m tired, my memory is worse than normal. When I’m going to bed, if I don’t go into the bathroom before I go to bed, I completely forget and fall asleep. I have a toothpaste now that I like the taste of and I have an electric toothbrush, so the excuse of the mint is no longer an excuse! It’s purely my memory that sucks. Fortunately for me, I do visit my dentist regularly and my teeth are straight and cavity free.
As I don’t go to bed at the same time every night, the idea of setting an alarm to remind me is useless. I set an alarm on my phone to remind me of various things like when I was ill and I needed to take antibiotics, I had two alarms so I remembered to take them 12 hours apart. I had alarms on my phone to remind me I had classes or appointments when I was at university. I don’t have a bedtime routine, so I am out of ideas on how to remind myself. It’s one I’m still working on.
Hair brushing is something I used to HATE my mum doing. I hated feeling the scratch of the brush and the tug on my hair to take all the bird’s nests out of my hair. I now have a Tangle Teezer which makes it far easier to brush my hair (which is almost waist length). I also have spray in conditioner to try to make it easier to get bird’s nests out of my hair, which I still end up with regularly. I tend to braid my hair to keep it tidy and less of a hassle when I need to brush it again.
The other topic that was brought up on the forum was related to using the toilet. Now, perhaps not a topic most people like the idea of talking about. Perhaps it’s a bit too personal. However, I’m going to address this as well because it does need to be discussed as there were a few parents with the same problem.
This wasn’t a problem for me. I don’t recall ever refusing or forgetting to use toilet paper when visiting the little girls room. There are times when I have become completely lost in thought and as I’ve gone to get up I’ve realised that I haven’t cleaned up. It doesn’t happen often, but if I’m off in my own world lost in thought, I do forget things that are routine. I always remember at the last-minute, but I do understand that a lapse in concentration or a wander off into personal thoughts could be a reason why someone would forget.
Another other thought I had, could it be that some people dislike the feel of toilet paper? I know personally prefer softer toilet paper, but it could be that the flushable wipes would be an alternative to try. It could be the feel of the paper causes some sort of sensory dislike much like my dislike for the feel of water on my face or the taste of mint toothpaste.
If you are having issues with your dyslexic kids and their personal hygiene, I would suggest that nagging is not the best option. It leads to frustration and temper tantrums (speaking from my own personal experiences). Instead, look for alternatives.
- Is it because they forget and need a structured routine like a regular shower before bedtime/first thing in the morning?
- Maybe routine isn’t the answer, maybe a note on the back of a door to remind them to brush their teeth would be an option, though it may feel rather patronising for older kids.
- Maybe it’s for sensory reasons, maybe the sound, taste, smell, texture, feel is what puts them off. Face wipes or a change of toothpaste may be worth trying out.
- Is it because they feel there’s something else they could be doing? Perhaps getting a waterproof radio for the bathroom to listen to in the shower?
I am not an ‘expert’ in dyslexia, just a dyslexic who remembers the tantrums very well. We are all very different, so it is worth a trial and error on changing products or routines. I’d advise asking the dyslexic person if there is a reason or if there is something that can be changed to support them.
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