We got through it. Anything that can be described like that is a victory.
The dentist was really good. Turns out his wife used to work for the doctor who did the autism evaluation, hence the referral I assume. Regardless, he was calm, skilled, listened to us, understood the situation perfectly, and best of all, was quick. Can’t beat that!
I rarely drop the word “autism” into a conversation with a stranger about our son unless the conversation is actually about that. People’s automatic prejudices about that really get to me and only serve to piss me off, and if he’s acting a bit destructively – which is rare – I don’t want to be one of those parents who makes excuses for their kids. If I’ve heard “Oh, he’s just that way; he has ADD” while their child is rampaging around the playground knocking kids down and taking stuff from them, I’ve heard it a thousand times. I don’t care if J-Man is autistic or purple; I want to have the same boundaries and rules and expectations that I hope other parents have for their own.
He jogged laps around the waiting room and entertained everyone. He did many of his usual array of things others may find quirky, but since I find them endearing, I had a great time watching him. There was a ramp into the kids’ play area that he would take a step up, change his mind, and come back down. He did this at least two dozen times. He has this thing about inclines. He’ll do steps now with some help, but put a ramp in front of him and his wires seem to get crossed sometimes. He was his usual cute self and everyone responded accordingly, with adoration of our son like they’re supposed to. 🙂
That preamble has a point. I figured they had a “special room” at the dentist’s office somewhere. The office is enormous and there’s a fairly open area with dentists’ chairs all over the place. I knew we’d have to do some wrestling with him to get this done and I’d rather not do it in public, freak him out even more, and then freak out the other kids – many of whom were very young and a couple who looked like it was their first time at the dentist and wouldn’t understand why this boy was screaming while some large adult (namely, me) was piled on top of him. So I sprinkled “autism” in a couple of places during our initial conversation with the hygienist. We got the “special room”. I usually don’t work a conversation like this, but it turned out to make life much more manageable for everyone.
The hygienist made little headway into checking his teeth so we all waited on the dentist for a few minutes. Singing and letting him explore the common area helped him calm down and pass the time. He never sits still in a new place so we let him work off some of that until the dentist was ready. He talked to us for a few minutes about concerns we had, was very understanding, knew completely what to do, and generally made us all feel better. His usual bag of tricks (e.g. show the kid the little dental mirror and let them play with it before using it) was pretty much pointless, but I appreciate the sentiment. J-Man was in the process of going over the edge at that point.
Like everything else, the winning plan is to be quick. I sat him in my lap facing me, then we tilted him back with his head into the dentist’s lap, Mary took one arm and the hygienist the other, and the dentist worked his magic. He managed to get a good visual exam in during all the commotion. Good for him. Verdict – no problems with his teeth!
He did have some staining on his upper, front teeth, mostly because all he’ll drink is iced tea. The dentist said a little pumice on the rotating brushy thing dentists use (no clue what it’s called) would clean that right up. It would take about 30 seconds. We figured we could survive anything for that long and it would look a lot better. So, we decided to do it.
Reinforcements were waiting by the exam room door (an extra hygienist if needed). I literally laid across him (useful side effect is that deep pressure helps) to hold his body and feet, everybody grabbed an arm, and 30 seconds later, voila! He got some serious crud off. Ewww. Verdict – Stain gone, everyone survived, good enough.
J-Man recovered well (which is normal for him). I held him and walked him around for a few minutes and we sang a few rounds of Old MacDonald. By the time we got to the car, he was pretty good with life again. He was pretty subdued, but an OK kind of subdued.
Some things we learned:
- Preparation is 9/10 of everything. We tried to get mentally and logistically prepared before we even got there. We planned the whole day around it, timing meals, giving him some extra chill out time, letting him watch a little extra TV, lots of loving attention, etc. Best call of the day – put the soft shoes back on in place of the big boy shoes in case he kicked because they hurt less!
- Learn from prior meltdowns and keep trying to figure out the best way to get through something like this. Fifteen progressively worse haircuts were great lessons. Still, probably a lot more we can learn.
- Skilled, understanding professionals are worth their weight in gold. They really made it as easy as they could. Again, speed is everything.
- Ask around, get referrals, ask around some more. This is going to be stressful, shopping around for the best person is worth the time. We relied on the referral of someone we trusted and it worked out well. We will definitely be going back there.
Final financial damage – $68, and see you in six months. We’ll take it!