Thursday, June 3, 2010

Taking kids to the dentist - Part 2

Alternately titled: Why I blog and Recognizing when you need a little help - Part 2

This is part 2. If you missed Part 1, read this first.

OK, so after my call to the pediatrician, I was equipped with some names and phone numbers. Nothing should be this difficult for a child, and if it is, then it is the parent's responsibility to help the child. That's my opinion, anyway.

We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out His love to fill our hearts. Romans 5:3-5

I called one number and the doctor had just resigned with no notice and no forwarding information. I consider that a blessing. I called the other number and explained the anxiety around the dentist appointment and asked how would I know from who to get help and what kind of help to seek. They told me they would take care of that after an evaluation.**

Many pages of paperwork later and a few hours of interviews brought us to a behavior modification therapist, an occupational therapist, and a speech therapist. Although my children have all spoken very early and have vast vocabularies, B tends to run her words together and skips over certain letters when speaking. (It turns out, after 5 months of speech therapy, she is quite capable of speaking clearly and just a bit lazy. I don't consider it a waste of time or money and appreciated the honesty and suggestions of activities to further improve her annunciation.)

The focus of occupational therapy has been to help B adjust her sensory nervous system. Using various activities, her nervous system learns to recognize where her body is in proximity to others'. We also provide tactile input and pressure on her body so she doesn't seek that out inappropriately, and we teach her activities to calm herself down or motivate herself, and to follow directions gradually moving from specific steps one at a time to anticipating what the next step should be. These are not just done in the therapy sessions, but also incorporated into her life at home. If you have questions about this, please leave them in the comments and I will happy to share what we have learned.

The focus of behavioral modification therapy has been to teach calming techniques such as deep breathing, holding breath, tensing, or writing in order to calm down when anxious or angry. The point is to learn how to self-calm and then articulate emotions. This is easily learned by many children, but not those prone to anxiety or with sensory processing disorder.

In the midst of these therapies, the next dental cleaning approached. I anticipated this being stressful for B, yet didn't know whether to tell her about the appointment or surprise her with it. B has always been pretty well in-tune to things that help her feel comfortable, so I asked her, "You remember the last time we went to the dentist, right? You know that one of these days you will have your teeth cleaned again, right? When would you like to know about it? A couple days before, the day before, that morning, or when we get there?" She said she didn't want to know and she didn't want to go. So I didn't tell her. The day came and I sneaked around, gathering the loveys, body brush, massager, and activity books. We were about half way there when her eyes turned into saucers and she exclaimed, "No, not the dentist!" I actually thought she would try to leap from the van as I was driving, but she didn't.

Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks. Philippians 4:6

We arrived at the dentist and used her brush and massager. She didn't want to be there, but didn't resist like the previous appointment. I had to carry her back to the cleaning room and they still gave her gas to calm her down and take the edge off. It worked. We made it.

Six months later brings us to a little over a month ago. B has made considerable progress using her breathing techniques, expressing herself verbally, and participating in the activities that help her. Would you believe that things like carrying laundry from one end of the house to the other and scrubbing the kitchen floor are therapeutic for her? Did I mention, helpful to me? Yeah!

So, last month I asked her the same question about when she'd want to know about her dentist appointment. She told me she'd like to know the day before. I wasn't sure that was a good idea, but decided to accommodate her. She didn't like it and asked if she had to go, could we reschedule. I assured her we weren't rescheduling and she would be fine. I reminded her of her techniques and prayed with her. I reminded her that God says, "Who of you by worrying, can add even a single hour to their life? If you can't even do that, then why worry about the rest?" I also reminded her that God takes care of the birds who aren't created in His image, but she is. Of course He will take care of her.

The day of the appointment we used the body brush before we left the house. The massager was in the bag and she carried her own loveys. All the way up there she repeated that she wasn't going in. I just told her it was OK. When the van stopped in the parking lot, she was the first one out. She walked in by herself and didn't panic in the waiting room. She walked back to the cleaning room all by herself and they didn't have to put her in a private room. She didn't need the gas. Amazing. And a real blessing. Thank you, Lord!

She has made so much progress in the last year.

Through blogging her story and bits of our lives, I hope to:

  • help others learn that kids cannot always be expected to behave the same way as their same-age peers,
  • help add laughter to those stressful moments, and
  • let other moms of kids who have a hard time sometimes know they are not alone and there are ways to help them and ourselves.

It can be hard to ask for help, but sometimes it's the best thing to do.

** B's official diagnosis is inconclusive, although she has been diagnosed both developmentally delayed and high-functioning autism, at different times - not that she is both, but either/or. It's hard to know which it is and it's not really relevant because the therapies she receives are helpful for either one. The sensory process disorder is definitely a component either way. It's very challenging for me, but it must be even more so for her.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I stumbled onto your blog today and wanted to say hi! I thought you might be interested in joining the SPD Blogger Network -- since you are already blogging about SPD! :) You can find info on my blog (tab at top). My son has SPD too, so I can totally relate to dentist struggles (anxiety especially!).

    Thanks for sharing your story,