Dental issues and autism spectrum issues are a touchy combination.
When I put "dentist" into the search box in my Google Reader, searching the autism-related blogs that I regularly follow, I get over 100 hits. Some are nightmare-ish. Many tell tales of hard-won gains, works in progress, dentist experiences that have -- over time -- become productive and tolerable.
I've not written about Joy & the dentist before, partly because our challenges are significantly less than some. Her sensory needs generally swing sensory-SEEKING, so we don't have that incredible mountain of sensory defensiveness to climb. She generally lets us brush her teeth pretty well twice a day with a battery-powered toothbrush, and does a bit of brushing herself after we're done.
Even so, she doesn't like going to the dentist. Who does, really? Well, Rose maybe. She loves our dentist. But I digress. Upshot is, dental visits with Joy are not easy.
The pediatric dental clinic where we take our girls is simply awesome.
They help us troubleshoot. Last visit, they came up with the suggestion of using a lead-apron as a weighted blanket to help Joy feel "hugged" during the cleaning. It worked well, I was all primed to ask for it this time around... and when we walked into the exam room, the apron was already lying on the table waiting for us.
They speak softly and smilingly and encouragingly to Joy. I think they really like her! They don't remind us or hold it over our head that she has bitten and broken dental mirrors in the past! This visit I had randomly snagged one of Joy's Grabber XT chewies to help keep her centered and entertained; the hygienist immediately noticed and suggested that we have Joy use the chewy to help keep her mouth open -- they'll clean while she chomps the chewy.
They sing to her, both the hygienist and the dentist. It's an amazingly calming strategy.
They're open to suggestions. When Rose had a filling done, I discovered that the rooms they use for fillings have video screens. This visit I realized that the regular exam rooms don't have that feature -- and I asked if we could have a video room for Joy's next regular cleaning. They were entirely cool with that. I bet they'll have it written down and I won't even have to ask when we go back in May.
The dentist was fine working without the bright overhead dental-light, when it became clear that Joy wasn't going to tolerate it.
Thank you so much, wonderful pediatric dentist and staff! Worth your weight in gold fillings!
UPDATE: Here's an opportunity for dentists who need to learn to provide service to patients with autism... a free webinar, Fri. Dec. 4 from 10-11 EST, "Patients with Autism: Awareness, Communication and Legal Strategies". From the Michigan Oral Health Coalition. I don't know what's up with the "legal strategies" bit. But awareness and communication can't be bad, right?