This morning I had to take my boylie to the dentist. I can't think of any kid that actually likes going to the dentist, but for a kid on the autism spectrum it's a special kind of dislike.
I prepped him as best I could. We talked about it, reminded him what happens. He has an awesome memory, he doesn't forget details. He knows the wallpaper, the color of the toothbrushes, the carpet and the chairs in the waiting room. He remembers everything. Which is part of the problem. This time we opted to take his noise headphones. He hardly ever uses them, usually he just puts his hands over his ears. He seemed happy to take them this time, though. He skipped along, in his usual skippity-skip, happy way, into the office, greeting everyone with his precious smile. He stopped short as we approached the chair, memories came flooding back. He sat down and leaned back and the tears started to come. "I'm scared," he said.
In some ways, as he gets older things get easier. The fact that he can verbalize how he's feeling is a huge step for him. He can even tell me what is scaring him. It's the noise. That damn toothbrush. He has hyper-sensistive hearing, and some frequencies are physically painful. I can never predict. That's why he sometimes walks into a new place with his fingers in his ears. Just to be safe. The problem with him getting older is he's also getting bigger, and stronger. I can't hold his arms down anymore. The dentist said, gently, that we might want to try restraining him.
My heart broke a little bit. I had hoped he would have gotten past this fear. He has gotten past so many. I was afraid that this would scare him more. The assistant showed me the restraint. It's essentially a body vest, that kind of hugs his arms to his body. He's not strapped to the chair. I relaxed a little. His sensory issues sometimes welcome that kind of pressure against the body. It give him sensory input and helps him to relax a little. I reminded him of the squeeze machine at school. The dentist's face showed he knew exactly what I was talking about. "Like Temple Grandin's squeeze machine." He wanted me to know that he understood. I think he did, a little. I felt better that he wanted me to feel better.
In the end, he still screamed and cried, but I think it was easier. They move quickly, they know what they're doing. They are sweet and kind to him, and tell him that he's doing great. After we were done, as I went to make his next appointment, (God help me) he can skippity skipping out of the office, his eyes still a bit watery, his cheeks flushed. But he smiled. "I wasn't scared," he said. And then, "I love you, mom."
I constantly question myself and my parenting of him. His autism is part of who he is. I can't change it. But can I be doing anything differently? Probably. He's pretty much a sunny, happy kid. He's smart as a whip, he's lovable as can be. I just wish I could sweep these fears away. For him, and for me.