Christo went to the dentist on Saturday.
It seems so simple to say it, so ordinary. Yet, to come to the point where we can just say that he went to the dentist my parents and Christo went through some rough times. The kicking, the screaming, the dread. I didn’t have to deal with a lot of it but I know how difficult it was for them. Christo had bad teeth – “He would not sit still for any of it. I mean how could he with that light shining in his face, someone’s fingers in his mouth, the taste of gloves, the sound of the suction, the tools, the pain and us holding him down; again, this PLUS sensory sensitivity.” When he had to have surgery he was the one sedated, but I think we all could have used a tranquilliser that day. When he walked into my nans with blood stains on his t-shirt I blacked-out it a little.
Years of holding him down, years of tears and fighting, of worrying that he is going to stab himself or us or the dentist with one of those fearful tools, has led to this moment when I can just say he went to the dentist. It doesn’t sound as satisfying as it is. It doesn’t look as accomplished as it is. You can’t see how proud we are when we say it.
He went to the dentist.
So, in the spirit of Marty McFly – and the Back to the Future 2015 date coming up – I thought of a few things I would go back and tell my family and me on trips to the dentist.
Look for someone who specialises in treating people on the spectrum, if you can’t find anyone near go around and explain the situation – you will get to check out the atmosphere, the space, the dentist before they go in.
Keep the drama on the low low. Be happy, smile a lot. Just because they cannot speak or express themselves doesn’t mean they don’t pick up certain words, tension or looks. I always thought of how easily Christos could pick up and copy your mood. The slightest change in my tone and he would be right there asking me why I’m annoyed or telling me to smile.
Draw their attention to you – keep them engaged. Don’t let them fade into a game or TV and then have them ‘wake up’ to the sound of a drill and a strangers fingers in their mouth. The transition will be much easier if they are already in an engaging, communicating mode.
Tell the doctor to dim the lights (in the reception area) or turn off background music when you have an appointment. This will help with sensory sensitivity. Christo didn’t need more noise, he can already hear what’s happening all around him.
Maybe this would have helped – practising. Having them sit back for 5 minutes while you pretend to poke around. Getting them used to the feel, being uncomfortable but knowing they have to sit through it instead of only experiencing the dentist once every 3-6 months.
Either way though, DeLorean or not, whether we knew or not – Christo went to the dentist on Saturday.