Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Orion Goes On the Defense: Tactile Experiences at the Doctor's and Dentist's Offices

Heather Withrow,
Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Orion KNOWS when he's in a medical or dental establishment. I'm so curious what the clue was. (Brainstorming here: maybe it's the smell? Orion's sibling concurs.) He's probably just tolerating us sight and/or sound-reliant folks as he JUST KNOWS. With him knowing, he's already on the defense, freestyle--- slouched down almost on his back, legs and arms up and ready to grab whatever touches... akin to a venus flytrap. Well, mostly arms, and we don't want to go down that route with Orion. We want to keep Orion's experiences with touch as positive as possible. (Positive must outweigh negative, by far!)

This morning, we had to go to the dentist because yesterday I noticed Orion's cute, uniquely shaped tooth's tip broke off and there was flesh-coloring in the middle of it. The tooth is on the lower jaw, second one on O's left from center. Its original shape was a pretty much a tooth, yes, but with a niche, as if it were human sized, it'd be an egg pod chair. Unfortunately, the cavity squad also thought that was fantastic. 

Once in the waiting area at the pediatric dentist, Orion went on the defense! He would not let me pull his blanket away from over his head. I kept in touch positively with Orion throughout our waiting, knowing that's helpful than him sitting, sitting, sitting and then being wheeled to the exam room and then being touched plenty right away. That's why the continued, comforting touch as we waited. 

The team readily knew that I'd tactually facilitate what needs to happen--- based on what we all learned from his last exam/cleaning 6 months ago. We usually collaborate to have Orion do lap exams and they usually work but for today and during his last visit 6 months ago, he did not want to get out of his stroller seat.  

Tangent warning! Another experience that likely contributed to O being defensive in medical settings: Last fall--- 9 months ago--- we had to have 4 people to safely give 50+ lbs octopus Orion his much-needed flu vaccine. 1: Mom, 2: the nurse with the syringe and 3 & 4: two others to gently hold his arms and legs.  Orion also has a scar from a flu vaccine injection from an earlier year where he flinched his shoulder forward as the nurse inserted the syringe. Poor kid, poor nurse! That's why he needs someone to hold his shoulder in place! The doctor who came to check said it could use stitches but we both acknowledged it's better left alone than to... stick Orion a few more times! Now it's a neat little dash of scar.)*

I gave Orion loving squeezes with both hands (open hands following the shape of his cheeks... that he likes), mommy hums on his forehead, and tapping his mouth to prompt him to open it. Of course he doesn't open it. The dentist offered Orion the little mirror tool for touching at his own pace. I love it when professionals offer tools for kids to explore--- not only kids learn, they are being communicated with, they're getting more information than they'd get if there weren't tools around and were being offered abstract words in whatever form. When O was done with the mirror, I had his hand touch my mouth as I opened it slowly and repeatedly. Tap-tap Orion's face near his mouth with my finger, hoping to suggest he copy me. Nope. Again, I modeled my mouth opening. I had to gently pull down his lower lip and he let me hold it out of the way, showing his huge cavity on The Tooth with ample time for the dentist to look, look, look. Eeek! (That's me getting a really good at his geode-like cavity tooth).

That geode-niche egg chair tooth was going to get pulled out eventually as Orions lower jaw is kinda small, thus his teeth are crowded. Orion's going to be sedated for his next cleaning, x-ray, extraction and have addressed whatever else they'd find in the operating room at Dell Children's at some point soon, depending on scheduling. It's shockingly booked up into December! I was advised that openings do come up much earlier anyway. 

On our way out, Orion got his stickers. He enjoys stickers. I love that pediatricians and pediatric dentists have stickers at the office.  We picked up some fries from Hat Creek, too. Orion needs something positive from all this! 

I'd LOVE to know if anyone has a safe way to let their DeafBlind loved one know that a needle syringe is going to be involved. I'd use an actual syringe but... needle. If the needle were removed, it may be similar to an oral syringe. We use oral syringes every night. 3 separate syringes to dispense meds so Orion may keep tactile track, 1-2-3-done. 

Currently, I tap Orion's shoulder a few times where the vaccine syringe will go. Nothing light, playful, loving or comforting as I don't want to mix up signals. Nothing startling or scary about the taps intended either. A surprise approach is not an option, I'd rather he know... if he defends, fine.  I'm working toward Orion just knowing and "hanging in there" just enough to get the job done and be on his way.

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