Nick, 16, went to a new dentist yesterday–a dentist for adults, since he didn’t want to see the pediatric dentist anymore (where he’d had successful appointments for several years with an understanding staff*). So I scheduled him with mine, and at his request disclosed nothing about him ahead of time. He wanted to handle it completely on his own.
There was one hiccup when the friendly hygienist put her hand on his shoulder as she guided him back to the exam room and he told her not to touch him, and she took that as “don’t touch me AT ALL” and came to me, all worried because she couldn’t do her job without touching him LOL and clearly expecting me to explain what the deal was with this kid…. I explained the difference between necessary touch and social touch and had a private moment with Nick where I reminded him that if he disclosed his autism or sensory issues, he might gain more understanding from the staff, and he reminded me that HE COULD HANDLE THIS HIMSELF. 🙂 So, deep breath, I conveyed exactly that to the hygienist and left them to it.
From then on I bided my time in the waiting room with crossword puzzles on my phone, got a reassuring thumbs up in passing from the hygienist in the doorway, and after many x-rays, a cleaning, an exam, and a fluoride treatment, he emerged WITHOUT even needing to grab the keys I held up and go directly to the car! I still don’t know what, if anything, he chose to disclose, and that’s OK because it’s *not about me*.
It has been a long, hard road, and there is no finish line (oh, believe me, we still have our struggles), but I have to share these experiences because I keep learning over and over that 1) presuming competence is the best way to provide opportunities for success, and 2) I never would have expected this when he was younger and I want to remind everyone that our kids do grow and learn and our hard work does pay off. 🙂
*How did we do that? Like so:
1) Spent a lot of time talking with Nick about what to expect
2) Shopped around for a dentist who specializes in special needs kids, who…
3) Arranged appointments with no one else in the office (so, no screeching toddlers)
4) Did all the work herself instead of handing him off to hygienists
5) Put Nick in control by stopping whenever he said stop
6) Told him everything she was going to do before she did it
7) Minimized unnecessary conversation and eliminated unnecessary touch.
(Portland-area readers, this dentist is Cynthia Pelley at Little Smiles in Sellwood. Highly recommend!)