Friday, July 16, 2010

FYI - Back To School# 5 part B - Visiting the Pediatric Dentistwater cover ridehorssre lunge scat scram getaway exit scurry zip getback duck depart flee getgoing

{And we continue with our toddler experiences at the dentist office.}

We don't know when it happened, how it happened or why it happened! But what happened was... Our beautiful teeth brusher no longer wanted to brush his teeth! Our son would hesitate when we would announce, "Teeth Brushing Time!" Our son would cry as we begged him to come and brush his teeth. OMG! He had stopped enjoying brushing his teeth! So, we changed toothbrushes, toothpastes,what time he brush, but to no avail. His daily oral cleaning routine nearly came to a halt! As if in pain, our son would scream loud the entire time. So loud, we knew our neighbors could here him pleading with us to stop! We later learned that our precious little boy-like many kids diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders - has oral sensitivities regarding his mouth. He had developed gum sensitivities and would gag as we tried to clean.

{Need to pause to pray again before sharing these past 3 years.}

As our son grew, the teeth brushing time was more of a horror show. Annual visits became 4 times a year visits just to keep his mouth healthy. Once, the pediatric dentists said they would "have to strap "him in a 'swaddling pappous' straight jacket type of thing. Forgetting that he did not even like his 5 point harness car seat until we learned to make a game of it and decorate it with stickers and clip on toys and support him with head and neck pillows - WE ALLOWED THE USE OF RESTRAINTS in order to ensure effective oral care! We knew that would make our son somewhat anxious. But, he would be more upset than we could ever imagine! Only Dada went with him to the back; and Mommie stayed up front anxiously waiting with a cool drink and to console him, if necessary.

When they emerged from the procedure-with Dada holding him close- no one had to tell me it was an AWFUL experience for our son! His clothes were soaking wet, his hair looked like he had been in the shower and his face bore shock! Fully fatigued, his hands reached for me. We immediately re-hydrated him. We held him and sang to him and rocked him and massaged him; and... WE ALL CRIED SOME MORE! Okay a snack and off to his favorite park. But, as soon as we left the parking lot, our son was already asleep. [At that time, we had not yet received a diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorders. We thought our son was just 'different'. We had no idea he was managing with ASD.]

We had accomplished the annual cleaning, 
at what price to our son's peace, self-worth, dignity and sense of parental protection!

We were silent during the drive home.

Later while sharing, we had both thought, "NEVER AGAIN WILL OUR SON BE RESTRAINED FOR A DENTIST VISIT!" We discussed how we would never condone restraints at school, so why did we think it was acceptable at the dentist?!!! We forgave each other and talked about a new strategy. We decided that we would have to advocate for our son and implement a 'positive behavioral supports' method at the dentist and all doctors visits. We thought of ways to better prepare him for the annual cleaning which takes longer. We promised our son to try to better meet his needs next time.

Thereafter, we made sure the dental Staff understood his needs, his responses, his motivators. In an effort to accommodate him, first, we arrived early enough for him to socialize with other kids. Second, we did the general questions in the main cleaning area to give our son an opportunity to adjust to this other room area. Not rushing into his cleaning also allowed him time to engage and see how the other children were responding to the dental assistants. Then, we would take him to a private room for the cleaning. From then on, the pediatric dentists at this office NEVER relied on restraints as a quick fix- for our son!

Post-diagnosis, we always remember that our son - like most kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders - needs transition time from the car, to the lobby, to the back, to the private cleaning room. Now, his pediatric dentist considers what we say, observe how we massage his hands and stomach and calmly talk to him. Noticing he was interested in the dental tools, the dentist demonstrates them before using them and allows him to touch and examine them. NEVER AGAIN DID OUR SON HAVE TO BE RESTRAINED FOR A DENTAL VISIT! We were sorry when we had to leave that pediatric dentist's office because of insurance changes. Our son always enjoyed playing with the kids in the aquarium area and choosing a gift for a good visit. After 2 years, WE -  Dada,Momma, his Scheduler, his Receptionist, his in-take assistant, his Accountant, and his Pediatric Dentist - all were a good oral care TEAM for our son.

{We think this was a teaching moment for all. We hope pediatric offices will exhaust their options, get developmental disabilities training, and always consider non-restraining methods with other kids, too.} With each new doctor we must educate them about our children, especially, if they have a developmental or physical disability. We must advocate and not expect these professionals to just know what to do all the time. They are trained experts in the area that they studied. They are not experts in your children, you are! So speak up and speak out! Our children are depending on us to effectively represent their needs.

Visiting the dentist is a necessary part of taking good care of your mouth. Brushing at home is good, but, we still need a professional to do annual cleanings and let us know how well we are cleaning at home. Since our son was classified with autism spectrum disorders, we like to refer to an international advocacy group called Autism Speaks. As we prepare for back to school 2010, we checked their website for tips. A fellow advocate referred us to Their Family Services Community Connections newly released 'Dental Guide Tool Kit'. It's colorful, easy to read and tells kids all about partnering with their dentist for a lifetime of good oral hygiene. The video is simple, interesting and applicable.

Wish we had this Autism Speaks Dental Guide 3 years ago. But, it's never too late to advocate for systems change-even at the dentist office. With a personal note attached, we are sending our pedontist a copy in hopes that it will be read by the entire office, not just the assistants. It would be great if this special needs dental guide/video would become standard training for all pedodontists who provide services for children with disabilities.

Read further for more info. about how to help your child and dentist enjoy their visit.


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