I come to him with his toothbrush loaded with paste, swirling and spinning. It is his electric toothbrush that I decided to buy for him a month or so ago, "just in case" he will use it.
He sits up at the end of the chair and opens his mouth for the buzzing, swirling, vibrating, minty-fresh experience that awaits his mouth.
He lets me brush all the surfaces of his teeth and then he takes the brush and does a few strokes himself!
This news is big enough to hit the major papers!
When Stevie was a toddler, he refused to brush his teeth at all. He went 2 years without brushing. It wasn't until we discovered his egg allergy, and that the toothpaste we were using had egg in it, that I realized why. It made his mouth itch!
So we did a super cute video of his big sister, Hope, brushing her teeth. Sure enough, he wanted to act out the video and from then on, he brushed his teeth several times a day. I guess he was making up for lost time!
But then when his once-stable teeth started becoming loose...and sore...and, well, unpredictable in his world, he started to refuse brushing again.
We made games of it, and songs, and tried to make it fun and silly and predictable--he knew what would happen and when it would be over, and he would tolerate it .
But a vibrating toothbrush? He never tolerated anything that vibrated. Especially in his mouth!
He has been so oral-defensive, that he never would let one of those brushes get near him.
So this is a big, wonderful step for him. His OT's in the past have tried to get him to tolerate vibrating things in his mouth: it should help desensitize him so he will not be so oral-defensive, and will eventually try new textures and foods.
The day is finally in the view at the end of the long tunnel we have been driving through for years with him!
There is no better advice for dealing with a sensory-averse child, or a child with autism, as this: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)
I love having children, and the unusualness of my life considering almost half of the family has autism.
Some of it, I haven't come to love: the aggression, the impulsiveness, the lack of safety awareness, the illness and food allergies and asthma... No, those things come with great stress, alertness that rivals hyper-vigilance for it's big-word title, and exhaustion. The alertness has no rest; it's only ally is dark-roast coffee.
Stress screams, "Let me out of here!"
There comes a time when one must "care for the caregiver". If we don't care for ourselves, we will burn out and be unable to care for our children well. Which is not a pretty picture when their life depends on parents who are hyper-vigilant.
This is true whether you children has special needs or not, which is why all those parenting magazines talk about having "Mommy Time", even if just for a walk around the block. When you have special needs in the family that requires around-the-clock care, it is even more important, and that much more difficult to actually do.
This would be why it's been 10 years.
But, I finally did it. I signed up for a Beginners Watercolor class through the local adult-ed program. I have wanted to take this class for years...ever since my husband gave me a Watercolor set for Christmas. I tried and tried to paint something identifiable, but always ended up with a watery, muddy, indiscernible mess.
So Back-To-School I went, right through the Middle School doors down the hall, around the corner weaving back and forth through the not-so-large school to a room with a teacher sitting at a desk in the front of the class.
I almost didn't make it. Saturday morning, I heard Stevie coughing and moaning. He managed to get enough air in for a cry out that said he just. couldn't. take it. anymore.
I rushed in to his room and gave him an unwanted nebulizer treatment (read: kicking and pushing) but he was too weak to fight hard. We gave him left-over steroids when the neb treatments didn't work.
Dan said to go to class anyway, and he'd take care of Stevie and call a friend to help if needed. The steroids should kick in soon, and he'll be ok.
So, I went. That is, after he promised to call me if our friend is not available, and I'll come home. Every other time, the steroids have done the trick and he probably would be fine in a couple hours.
But this time was different. He didn't get better, he got worse. He got pale and lethargic. So Dan called and our friend came, and he took Stevie to Quick Care. Even with the nebs and steroids, his oxygen level was in the low 80's. So they gave him extra oxygen and monitored to see if he would be able to maintain the levels on his own. He wasn't.
So he got to take his first ambulance ride to the hospital and spend the day in the E.R. and eventually he was admitted because his oxygen levels would not stay high enough without the additional oxygen.
At this point, I was really regretting having left him to go do something fun for myself. I thought every time I saw that painting, I'd rememberhow I left him while he was so sick.
But as time went on and Stevie improved, I started to see it differently.
I have traveled the road from Guilt to Gratitude.
What could have happened, didn't; Stevie is fine, and ended up loving his stay at the "hotel" with his own magical wall-sized window overlooking the city, that turns into a mirror at night. All those under-entertained onlookers near Amatos that evening, looking up to the sixth floor window saw a 7 year old boy in his boxers, jumping and dancing on a couch with Kermit the Frog.
I realized, as I stayed with him in the hospital overnight, that God took care of EVERYTHING.
*He prompted Dan to take Stevie to the Quick Care place down the street.
*He made my well-equipt friend willing and available to come watch the other three children until I could get home.
*He placed wise doctors in Stevie's path.
*He even made what could have been traumatic for Stevie, the time of his life: riding on an ambulance, staying overnight on the 6th floor of a "hotel" with LOTS of fast elevators, being waited on hand & foot...with all his favorite things (minus a swimming pool).
*He made it possible for me to take and finish the art class I had been looking forward to.
I think He wanted me to have that class, to learn how to find some balance in my seemingly unbalanceable life.
Sometimes, finding balance is letting go of some of the things the job description typically lists as your responsibility; it requires letting others help.
Here is my painting:
Psalm 37:4 "Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart."
POST BLOG: There is a whole website/blog dedicated to caring for the care-giver. It is called The Oxygen Mask Project, based on the teaching in airplanes, that we have to care for ourselves--put on our own oxygen mask first, before we care for others--put on their oxygen mask. You can check them out over at The Oxygen Mask Project . Kinda ironic that I was putting on my "oxygen mask" when Stevie needed his "oxygen".