Trying to get a child, to willingly go to the dentist or the doctor's office can be difficult at the best of times. I used to hate both of them with a passion. Now, if your child has Asperger's or autism, the whole situation can get all the more difficult. My son won't take any medicine or even take a vitamin without being forced too. In this post, we'll discuss our experience in going to the doctor/dentist.
Where to start. Back when Jacob was a baby, before the Asperger's diagnosis, we frequently saw the doctor and not just for simple check ups. When Jacob was 1 year old, we made our first trip to the emergency room. Jacob was sick and was having trouble breathing. We had to use the oxygen mask on him and believe me, he wasn't very open to the idea. Jacob to this day, still doesn't wear earphones or even a mask at Halloween. My wife Shannon, had to hold the oxygen mask as close as she could to Jacob's face, without making contact. His oxygen level was at 88%, so we were admitted and had to stay overnight. We were both up all night taking turns holding the mask. The next day, Jacob was diagnosed with asthma. We were given a couple different puffers and a special mask to use. Boy did that go well. Imagine giving a child with Asperger's taking something like 5-10 puffs a day, especially when they're dead set against it. But we managed to do it. We had to make a game of it, counting to 10 in silly ways, just to get Jacob to use the puffers.
Then at 18 months, we were in the hospital again. Another attack. This time we didn't stay overnight, but it was still as scary. It seemed every time Jacob was sick, we went to the emergency room. Then at 2, we went back again. By this time we decided to develop some strategies to help avoid the hospital, because we were afraid that Jacob might contract something worse just by visiting. At the first sign of wheezing we'd use the inhalers, but we'd have to act quickly. We couldn't use any meds of any kind. No grape cough syrup, none of those new strips either. One time we had to give Jacob a specific medication twice a day for 5 days. I'd get a small cup and put 5 mls in it, then I'd get a plastic syringe with 5 mls in it and present the choices to Jacob. "You pick which one you want." I'd say. And Jacob would look at me and say "It looks like its the syringe then dad." And he'd put both hands on his mouth, run to his room and put his face in his bed. Boy, oh boy, what a great week that was. I think I wore more of the stuff than Jacob actually took. That's why early detection is the key.
At night, I'd arrange my clothes so I could get dressed quickly if I had to. If Jacob woke up wheezing we'd go out for a walk. This worked best in colder months as the frigid air would reduce the inflammation. But being up at 4AM only to walk through the snow for an hour is quite tiring. During Jacob's first 2 years at school he had roughly 100 absences. If we heard a sniffle, he'd stay home. You know how schools are. They're a breeding ground for germs.
We'd often end up at the doctors office for various other things. The worst part about it all was that Jacob is extremely carsick. We always have to bring a change of clothes anytime we go out together. Then we go to the waiting room and wait. Imagine a child with Asperger's, upset stomach, having to wait 30 extra minutes for an appointment. To help battle the carsickness, we'd make appointments as early as possible, before Jacob would eat breakfast. But that meant missing school. It also made for a cranky child in the morning. So now, we walk about 45 minutes to the doctor. Since this change, Jacob can eat if he wants and visits can be scheduled after school. Visits to the doctor have become fun, even in the rain. We also take Jacob through the mall on the way home. He loves all the people and stores. Jacob now gets excited to go visit his friends at the doctor's office.
Now the dentist is a whole different ballgame. The first few routine visits were at least over quickly. That's because Jacob wouldn't open his mouth for anything. Not for a toy, a book or a candy. Then, on the 3rd visit, he finally opened his mouth. We learnt that if Jacob could gently touch the hand of the dental assistant, he'd feel more in control and be willing to say "Aah".
What progress we thought. Then, we were told Jacob had 7 cavities. "Really?" We asked. We help Jacob brush his teeth at least twice a day, but none the less, he had cavities. Then we thought about how on earth we'd get Jacob to comply with getting his cavities filled. After much deliberation and research, we decided to use sedation dentistry.
Before the visit to that dentist we had to be ready for the procedure. No food or drink for 12 hours before. No problem as we walk to the dentist and make the appointments early. He was in and out in 45 minutes. We had to wait an hour afterwards for Jacob to wake up. He was not happy when he finally woke. Then we had to get a ride home because Jacob was too groggy to walk. As soon as the cab pulled up out front of our house he began to get sick. Luckily there was nothing in his system. He rested on the couch and a couple hours later he was fine.
Then, we were afraid that the bad memory of that particular visit would spell disaster for any further dentist visits. Jacob never forgets as I've heard many people with Asperger's have great memories. But thankfully he went back to the dentist without issue. As long as he can touch the assistants hand holding the tools, he's fine. And he hasn't had a cavity since.
If your child has Asperger's or autism and is having trouble going to the doctor or dentist, maybe some of the things we try will work for you. If it's a simple change, it might be worth it.
WELCOME TO JIM'S AUTISM BLOG
Hi everyone and thanks for visiting our blog. My wife and I created this blog to chronicle our experience while raising a son with Asperger's syndrome. Since our son was diagnosed with an ASD at age 5, we've had a lot of questions. Lucky for us we have a great support network in place. And our blog gives us an opportunity to share what we've learned with our readers. We hope you find our blog informative and interesting. Thanks again for visiting.
"It seems that for success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential." Dr Hans Asperger 1906-1980