Thursday, May 21, 2009

Talking to Kids Who Don't Talk to You

With two special needs kids, you think you have been through it all but sometimes, I feel like I know nothing.

Last week, I made an appointment for Logan for a dental check-up and decided to have Spencer checked as well. He's only 2 but he does eat cupcakes and cookies and ice cream (still all free of egg, gluten, soy, and dairy) so I decided to give it a shot. Given Logan's first experience and their similar oral/facial defensiveness, I knew Spencer would likely be hysterical. Logan was so terrible on his first time, all the dentist could do was look inside and that took over half an hour. He couldn't even clean his teeth.

I told my occupational therapist about Spencer's dental visit about three days prior to our appointment and the first thing he asked was, "Did you tell Spencer that he was going to the dentist?" I bowed my head in shame.

I am so bad at this. I know my kids are anxious, impulsive, and afraid of new surroundings. Spencer is especially afraid of medical environments but do you think I would have mentioned our pending dental visit to Spencer? Why would I do something smart like that?

Again, his therapists saved the day. I had some scrubs from my old days at the hospital and also had one of those swine flu masks in the house. We had a high chair that we could tilt and thus we played 'pretend dentist' as least 2-3 times a day. It wasn't an ideal way to prepare him but we worked with what we had.

Without the therapists' ideas and help, I would have probably just taken Spencer to the dentist and he would figure out what was happening when the got into the treatment room. I can be really stupid sometimes. Why do I keep forgetting that preparing kids in advance is one of the top ten rules for many kids with special needs, especially kids with ADHD.

On top of the pretend play, we had Logan, who used to fight the dentist with all his might. Now he's really good about it and was a great model for Spencer when we finally made our way to the dentist's chair. When it came time for Spencer's turn, he cried but he let the dentist work on him. It was a miracle, courtesy of his therapists and his big brother.

Big brothers can be such great models. I even credit him (and chocolate) for teaching Spencer how to pee in the potty. I had been trying for weeks but he would just sit there and not do anything. Finally, I bought some chocolate covered sunflower seeds (like an m&m but without the nasty junk) and showed Spencer that Logan got the colorful "candy" right after he peed. The problem was that Spencer doesn't know what candy is so I gave Spencer one to try and his sensory-defensive mouth immediately spit it out. But then, I wish you were there to see his face. His facial expression changed from "yuck" to "uh, what was that?" Quickly, he picked up the bits off the floor and put them in his mouth. Within ten minutes he peed in the potty and got his candy and now he goes everyday. This just tells me that he knew what was going on for awhile now but he just needed some motivation and some time to put it all together.

It's so hard to talk to Spencer who can't say what he wants to tell you. Additionally, Logan can talk but his mind moves so fast, he often doesn't make any sense. As a result, I frequently act as if Spencer can't understand me but I have to remind myself that he can. That means I must tell him (and Logan) about where we're going, talk to him more, and elicit more speech from him because I think he is used to not using words to talk to me.

So basically, I've got communications issues with both of them. Maybe that is why they were born to me, a pr woman; we specialize in communicating and influencing minds. As you can see from my parking lot to notes next to the toilet, I'm pulling all my PR tricks out of my hat to get my message across. Irregardless, words or no words, Spencer peed in the potty and let the dentist finish his job. Spencer, you did it! Mama's so proud of your two major conquests and of your brother for leading the way!

Picture- top: You can't be a boy with ADHD unless you touch everything in the dentist's office including picking out a sterile cottonball from a jar, licking it and then putting it back in the jar. The beauty of ADHD.....
Picture- bottom: Spencer will now pee as little as two tablespoons, jump up and down and congratulate himself and then demand candy. I'm seeing him in a new light now. This kid is a lot smarter than I thought.

BTW, look at Spencer's hair, guess what is next? Oh, no!!!!!!!!

1 comment:

Loretta John said...

Children can beso hard to deal with during dental visits. I like the strategy that you used which is playing 'dentist' to your kids. It can reduce their apprehension since they already know what to expect on their appointment. Rewards are also very effective. My daughter usually goes to (Bartlett) dentists to have her teeth examined. After that, she gets small toys and candies from the clinic's staff. She always looks forward to that part of her appointment.

I hope that your future visits would run smoothly. Good luck!