Archive for the ‘Child care’ Category

Finding a dentist for special needs kids

Photo by Milan Jurek

This is an article I wrote last year  for Children’s Dental Health Month.  –Elizabeth

Good dental hygiene can be almost impossible for some special needs kids.  The daily routines of life can make it easy to forget about brushing and flossing, and some kids with sensory integration issues may be very resistant to the activity.

Finding a good dentist may help.  Dentists and their staff can help educate children about dental health and encourage children to brush, floss, and rinse.  Parents may be able to learn tips on how to help their children take care of their teeth.

When seeking out a dentist for your child, keep in mind the uniqueness of your child and his or her needs.  Here are some helpful questions to ask as your seek out a dentist.  (Readers: Feel free to post other helpful questions in the comment section below, or recommend good dentists.)

Are your familiar with my child’s disability? Many dentist offices will express their willingness to see patients with disabilities.  However, as many parents know, sometimes “disabilities” are all “lumped together.”  There are many types of disabilities, each with unique characteristics. Successful dental appointments depend upon the dentist’s and the dental staff’s willingness to learn about your child’s specific needs.

May we tour your facility before we visit? Going to the dentist can be scary! Touring the facility ahead of time will eliminate some of the “unknown” and perhaps ease some of your child’s fears. He or she can sit in the dental chair (and maybe even make it operate), look at the tools, and maybe even get a free toothbrush before the scheduled appointment.  Receptionists and other staff will also be familiar with your child before the appointment. Meeting the dentist and staff ahead of time is especially helpful.  However, scheduling and multiple locations may limit staff availability.If touring is not practical, check out the office’s website.  Some have pictures and bios of the staff, as well as virtual office tours.

Do you have a private room for your special needs patients? In many dental offices, patients are seen in one big room, perhaps partitioned by cubicles or curtains. Kids with sensory issues could be overwhelmed by sounds such as  drills, cleaning tools, or by other children. Some offices such as Kearns and Ashby (my kids’ awesome dentists!) offer private rooms for their special need patients to provide a calmer atmosphere.

How do you handle tantrums and refusals of treatment? Pediatric and adolescent dentists are well-acquainted with these issues.  The best prevention of tantrums is educating or preparing the parent and child before a procedure.  Some kids will refuse to have their teeth polished.  Find out if there is an alternative to the cleaning tools, such as simply brushing the child’s teeth.

Do you provide anesthesia for dental work?  If your child is already fearful of strangers and dentists, or has severe oral sensitivities, anesthesia may be an option for cleaning and dental work.This may be found on the dentist’s website.  If so, familiarize yourself with the different options they offer.

Is dental work done under anesthesia performed in the office or elsewhere? Some offices offer general anesthesia for major dental work, provided by an anesthesiologist.  Kearns and Ashby perform these procedures at the West Shore Surgery Center.

How do you prepare your special needs patients for the procedures? Some dentists show the tools, demonstrate on dolls or their own teeth, or even have pictures.  The dentist may have suggestions for preparing the child at home, too.

Will my child see the same dentist at every visit?  For people with developmental disabilities such as autism, this may be important for continuation of care.  The more interactions the child has with a dentist, the more trust builds.

Do you take Medical Assistance?  Many dentists do not take medical assistance.  However, if financially feasible, paying out of pocket for a dentist that fits the child can be worth it in the long run.

Finding a good dentist can be a long process.  Asking other parents can help.  Comments, recommendations for good dentists, and other helpful tips are welcome and encouraged!  Post below.

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Summer plans

I am thinking about the summer.

Whatever happened to, “Summer time… and the livings easy…”?

Summer is always a mixed bag for me.  I like the lighter schedule. I like to be spontaneous!

I also hate the lighter schedule.  The lack of structure is hard for the boys.  They become video zombies.  If I’m not careful they can end up playing video / computer games for hours on end, and melting down later.

I’m caught in this tug of war between my rebellion against structure and schedules and my kids’ need for it.

Summer and me:   a love / hate relationship.

There are differences this year, though.  My oldest has a job, so he’ll be out of the house more.  Whew!

Pardon me, but I really need to vent. When my oldest has unstructured time he is very annoying.  Seriously.  It is “entertain me all the time,” and has been since he moved in when he was 9 years old.  (Once he asked a babysitter: “What are you going to do to entertain me now?”)  It is really hard for him to be on his own and do things independently.  One of my nicknames for him is “hover-round,” like the mobility device.  He hovers until he gets my attention. For example, I used to take a step backward and run into him, he was that close behind me! He’s gotten better, but he still stands around and stares at me until he gets my attention, no matter what else I may be doing. And if I don’t drop everything and make him the priority, he will do things like use his dad’s power tools without permission, cut his sister’s hair, start fights, or renovate his bedroom.  (That’s another post.)  I’m hoping that this job has a positive impact on his ability to be independent and work with others! So at least that’s hopefully going to be better this summer.  Okay, end of vent.

My younger son is much more verbal now and willing to try new things. His increased communication makes our days easier. For example, I am the video game tyrant, and he seems to understand this.  He has to play a game with me, do a chore, practice his piano, etc. before he can have anything electronic.

My youngest is much more independent now, and likes to do more “grown up” things with me now– crafty stuff, gardening, etc.  So I think we’ll be good there.

Could this be the summer of fun?

I remind myself that it won’t be all unstructured time. My younger son is going to extended school year (ESY) this summer, which will meet three mornings per week for 4 weeks.  I wondered whether or not to send him, but then remembered that he had a really good time at ESY last year.  The teacher ran it like a camp, and her staff even made a dvd of their adventures together.  He really liked it.  I also enrolled him in a reading camp, which I’ve heard is fun for the kids, to help strengthen his skill as he enters middle school. He loves stories and reading.

But there will be a lot of unstructured time.  I’m dreading it. So, readers, how do you handle summer down time?  I’d love to hear about it!  (In other words, “HELP!”)

Childcare swap

Babysitter?  You’ve got to be kidding!

The costs have gone up since I was a kid, finding someone we trust to care for the kids is difficult for me and my husband, and just finding someone willing to watch autistic kids can be a challenge. Plus I don’t want to “burden” my friends with kids on the spectrum, either.

So what was I to do when I really really really wanted to take my hubby out for his birthday?

I made arrangements to do a childcare swap with another friend couple who has two kids, one on the spectrum.  (I figured we could both be “burdened” for one evening, LOL!)  My oldest went to grandmas, while my younger two had fun with Mr. and Mrs. D and kids.

There were a lot of preparations.  My friend made sure that her husband was off work so he’d be there to support.  Good call!  We went over the gfcf diet and I provided my son’s food and snacks for the evening. We brainstormed ways to keep my tomboy girly-girl occupied.  And then we just went for it.

It was great! My kids didn’t want to leave!  Their kids didn’t want my kids to leave! But unfortunately running away with hubby for the night was out of the question!

We returned the favor a couple of weeks later.  Same type of preparations regarding snacks, activities, etc.  We had a lot of fun.  I learned a lot about WWII submarines that night.  Never knew that my house  could have so many decks, and I learned to salute.  Things that kids can teach us! Sometimes autistic perseverations are very interesting!

I look forward to doing this again.  I’m already thinking of fun things to do.

This is just one of the reasons why I like my community. Autism is pretty common around here, and other parents are very supportive– even those who have kids who aren’t on the autism spectrum.  I am so glad we live here.