Copyright © 2013 Stephen Hawley, all rights reserved.
There are certain things that you must do with a child that they will hate. For example, my son Stuart (typical) hates getting shots. They really don’t hurt much, but he gets into a bit of a panic over them. The thing I’ve noticed about Alice is that the things she hates, she magnifies and goes into a heavy crying jag over. For example, Alice hates, hates, hates, HATES having her hair brushed by us. It defies reason because we’re actually pretty good about it (we use detangler and hold her hair and brush starting at the ends), but she can’t stand it and goes hyperemotional. I say it defies reason because she will brush her own hair without detangler, starting at the roots and yanking the brush through. You can hear her hair tearing. Yet this is nothing to her.
Then comes teeth. Alice has always hated foreign objects in her mouth except for a binky. When she was an infant and into toddler years, her speech therapist was insistent on doing oral-motor stimulation. She had little sticks with rigid foam blobs on them and she would open Alice’s mouth and poke around with them. There’s mixed feelings about the value of this, but since Alice was a relatively early talker for DS, we figured it couldn’t hurt. Well, except for the permanent trauma.
When it became time to take her to the dentist for the first time, I made a mistake and my dentist made a worse mistake. My mistake was that I took her to my dentist, who is great with adults (but I had never really seen any kids there). His mistake was that he lied to me. I asked him if his office was able and willing to work with a young patient with multiple disabilities and he said, “yes”. No, no they weren’t. The visit was terrifying for Alice and that lingers on still (not surprising, really), even though her current dentist, a pediatric dentist, is fabulous.
On her last visit, she was good with checking her teeth, but during cleaning the hygienist was a little rough at one point and ended up in tears and refused to cooperate. Great. It took me about 5 minutes to calm her down and agree to cooperate and those five minutes were nearly continuous wailing. The hygienist looked very impatient, likely because they use an open floor plan and all the other kids would be affected. 5 long minutes of calm talking and reassuring. She finished out her cleaning like a champ, but when the hygienist started with the floss, Alice was reacting very badly. I said, “let’s not fight this battle today.” She looked at me with a raised eyebrow and asked, “are you sure?” “Yes,” I answered, “not today.” Alice calmed down fully, gave the hygienist a hug (we don’t usually encourage hugging people outside our immediate family because Alice tends to get over touchy, but this seemed a reasonable exception), picked out a prize and we went on our way. Good recovery. Phew.