About a year ago Bella had her first dental appointment when she was 3. Besides waiting a bit to actually see the doctor, she handle everything fairly well. Especially considering at the time, she would cooperate for very little outside of her normal routine. Nothing would cause me to think subsequent appointments would go badly so after missing her 6 month follow up, I finally made her another appointment as well as her brother.
We came in first thing so that the wait wouldn’t be long. I wanted to minimize any distractions between the car and the dental chair and as far as that part of the plan was concerned, we did well. A few minutes past and we got to the room I could immediately sense her anxiety going up. She was unsure about sitting in the chair, the hygienist, and pretty much decided she was done with it all from the start. Since her brother had an appointment as well, when she wouldn’t get in the chair they offered to take him first and being the awesome big brother that he is, he tried calling her over so she could see how “fun” it was. He has always been very good at understanding her and trying to help calm her down so we had high hopes this would work….we were wrong.
From this point on the appointment was a downward spiral that crashed and burned until we both were fried mentally and physically.
**disclaimer: the dentist we took her to is specialized in working with kids who have special needs. I in no way blame them for how the rest of the appointment went and appreciate that they are even willing to try and work with me going forward.**
First, Bella walked over to they hygienist and slapped her hand as she placed the bib around her brothers neck. In her defense she most likely thought she was defending her brother from a stranger but still, it was not ideal nor can we allow it or let her think it’s okay. I had to restrain her in one corner of the room as the hygienist continued to not only let her do her job, but to prevent any accidents from occurring. I tried to get her to leave the room but anyone who has worked with or parented a child on the spectrum can agree that (especially strong willed/physically strong children) during certain meltdowns, your main focus switches to containment and keeping them safe versus pushing their limits and that’s what I was doing.
I prayed in my head that eventually she would tire and make it easier to control her but that was not the case. After a few headbutts to my chin and some scratch marks it became time for her to sit in the chair and things only got worse. I had to continue to restrain her arms and legs so she wouldn’t hurt the staff while also trying to protect both Bella and I from getting hurt. She was on my lap as I spoke softly and calmly and tried explaining what was happening but it was a losing battle. While most time’s she can piece together what is going on, her receptive delay and expressive delay become a huge issue when shes in distress. The hygienist was able to finish a very brief cleaning before the dentist came in to try and finish her exam as quickly as possible.
At this point she would have no parts of the chair so it became my job to have her straddle my waist facing me, as i held her arms and legs in place and titled her back. The picture gives you and idea of what exactly we were doing and how it is supposed to work.
They than explained that they had to use this special tool designed to be soft enough it wouldn’t hurt her teeth but strong enough so that her mouth would stay open for the exam. Honestly it reminds me of a bite stick used on animals which just added on to the guilt. Even with the “safe and effective” nature of the tool, she was biting down so hard that her mouth began to bleed. Her face was beat red and tears were streaming down her face and so many times I wanted to tell them to stop and just give up. I had to put that aside though and stay strong for her so we could finish up. I had to be her advocate, her parent, her rock and her voice all at the same time. Thankfully after what felt was forever, the whole ordeal was over, her teeth were in good condition and had “good spacing” so we didn’t have to worry about flossing until further notice.
As with any normal day, it was time she got back from school and her normal routine. Within minutes of entering the building she was back to Bella. My smiling princess who is sneaky and bright and silly. Its those times of her just being her, that helps me get past the hard moments. I pray that whatever her future holds she eventually understands that I only do what I do to make sure she grows up as healthy and as adjusted as possible. I pray that the times I have to push her pay off.