Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Root of the Problem

I have two boys: one on the autism spectrum, and the other neurotypical. On a near hourly basis, my neurotypical son (who is nearly four years old) indicates pain. "Mommy, I have a boo-boo. I need a Band-Aid. Let's go to the hospital." In Aksel's world (my seven year old with autism), by stark contrast, "pain" is felt and processed differently. Meaning, he rarely shows discomfort, or at the very least, he doesn't talk about it.

That said, I've always known that Aksel's tolerance and threshold for pain were great. Therefore, I'm acutely sensitive to his complaints - when, and if, I hear them. (If, being the operative word.)

So, when Aksel started scripting dental terms, and made mention of a "cavity" three weeks ago, I knew something was amiss. But sadly, my "realization" wasn't immediate. For as any busy mother, whose child isn't particularly forthright, or who has difficulty communicating, it took a little work to get to the root of the problem.

And in this particular case, the "root" was truly a nuisance!

Really though, upon inspection, Aksel had two visible cavities! And never once, despite considerable pain (one was an abscess), did he directly say, "Mom, my teeth hurt!" Instead, he sprinkled his "talk" with mystery words like "better" and "cavity."

But when he knew that I knew he was in pain, however, he was very open in vocalizing his discomfort (for example, see video below). He just had a hard time presenting the matter beforehand.

Now fixing the problem, that proved to be a whole other beast... Because like many children on the autism spectrum, Aksel does not like going to the dentist! For one, he's orally-defensive. He will not let you put your hands in, or near his mouth. Hence the reason his oral health is a problem to start. (That, coupled with a very limited, starch-heavy diet.) Because brushing teeth, for example, is a twice-a-day battle of the strong in our household. (I try to focus on the four quadrants of his mouth, making certain they each get "some" brush-action. But at 4'3" tall, and 63 pounds, he's just not as compliant as he once was. I mean, who wants their mother's hands in their mouth twice daily?)

Long story short, due to anxiety and resistance at the dentist's office, Aksel had to have his first "medical procedure" (complete with general anesthesia) last week. He had two cavities repaired, an abscess extracted, one pulpotomy, and a full cleaning. And might I say, he braved the experience like a real champ - far exceeding my expectations.

Now, from his cute perspective (he took most of these photos), here's Aksel's day at the surgery center. I just hope it's the last trip for a good, long while. But with two active boys, I highly doubt it...

I don't know who these guys are, but they were waiting too?
Aksel getting prepped.

Speaking with Aksel's anesthesiologist beforehand.

Daddy, looking a little worried.

A group selfie with Nurse Sheila.

Ready to go back with Nurse Karen.

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