Monday, January 27, 2014

UPDATE! Anxiety, Meds, the Dentist and My Son is Awesome!!

A timeline:

3:10 Pick up from school, we drive home and he is already worried about his dentist appointment. He picks fights with me about things unrelated but I can see through to his anxiety.

3:30 We've arrived home and had a snack (muffin) and a drink (juice) and its time to take the medication. I explained that it will make the appointment easier and he won't be as afraid of the dentist this time.

4:00 We arrive for our 4:10 appointment. He sits in the only corner with only one chair so that no one else can sit next to him (this is normal) and we wait. He is acting goofy and a little hyper and I'm worried.

4:30 I'm super annoyed because they know sitting in the waiting room can increase his anxiety but at this point he has moved past the hyper and is staring at the TV (Phineas & Ferb, naturally) and tapping a Skylander icon on the iPad that makes a noise.

4:35 We go back and he gets a little anxious but he is a bit lethargic as well so he sits in the dentist chair without me asking!! The dentist comes in, this is our normal dentist and he is AMAZING with my 9 year old, they make a deal... Show & Tell before anything which is to show us what he is going to use and tell us what he is going to do with it and why.

In this appointment they brushed his teeth, counted and looked for any issues and polished his teeth with the toothbrush and the tooth polish (not the electric spin brush thing). We did not do a fluoride treatment, when the dentist said it Adam freaked so we skipped it. This is probably because a past dentist got really annoyed with us and Adam's refusal to let them put it on his teeth. He will never forget that.

5:05 We were outta there and on our way to get drive though for dinner, Adam's choice for being SUPER AWESOME!! (And necessary because my garbage disposal died last night and at last check The Hubs had the kitchen torn apart)

We're home now, dinner has been eaten and Adam is on his earned computer time to round out the evening. He is a little spacey still and will probably (hopefully!) sleep really well tonight.

Today is a good day. 

Anxiety, Medication and the Dentist

Today is attempt three at getting a dental exam for my 9 year old, attempt THREE. Last year he was able to open his mouth enough so that the dentist could see two cavities, this was enough to qualify for sedation dentistry where one cavity was filled, one baby tooth was extracted, he received a full cleaning and a full set of X-rays. Pre-Op proved more traumatic than Post-Op and we considered this a success (with the qualification that there were no other options and given that, it turned out okay).

Fast forward six months and its time for another check-up. Full meltdown. He sat in the chair very briefly and put his head back and we left it at that. Second attempt went a little better, he opened his mouth and let the doctor look but it took 45 minutes, lots of screaming and calming and screaming again. The roller coaster left us both exhausted.

There's no question his anxiety is getting worse over time. We are working on it with a behavioral psychologist. From what I can tell, known issues are worse than un-known ones. He is curious enough to want to try something once, even if it is cautiously. It's the follow-up and repeat instance where he knows enough to make it bigger, more stressful, scarier in his mind. Its fighting against a known fear which, even exaggerated, is extremely difficult.

Tell me to stop being afraid of spiders. Tell me to stop worrying about things I cannot control.
Stop being afraid of spiders (or earthquakes or the vastness of outer space). 
Nope, can't do it. It would be easier to stop breathing.

So this is what I have, the tools at my disposal, going in to the dentist office:

  • me
  • my voice
  • unconditional love
  • noise canceling headphones
  • a sleep mask that looks like robot eyes
  • a dentist I like and trust
  • medical and dental insurance
  • unconditional love (its worth repeating)
And a new tool that has been added is a prescription in his name for 2mg extended release of Xanax. 

Believe me when I tell you that there is no part of my brain, heart and body that wants to give him this pill but as much as I do not want to, more powerful is the desire to help him in his fight against his fear and his anxiety. 

If you are a parent of a child with anxiety, irrational fears and Autism, I have no doubt that you have had to do a safe restraint on your child to complete an important blood draw or so that the doctor could complete an exam to identify an ear infection or strep throat. I know that you closed your eyes and willed the doctor or phlebotomist to hurry, to finish before you lost strength yourself. Because you know that you can only hold your thrashing and screaming child for so long, you can only hear them yell "PLEASE!!! STOP!!!" for just a second more before your own heart will shatter and you will let go. But you know, you hold tight because it will be over faster if you do, your child will be safer if you are the one doing it, you will stay just outside yourself long enough to get it done and then you will kneel before your baby and hold him, kiss away his tears, tell him you had no choice, apologize again and again, tell him that you love him and you are proud of him. You will snarl at anyone to tries to separate you before you are both calm enough to go back into the world. 

Then you will call your doctor and beg them for something to help your child cope with situations like this and you will receive a prescription for Xanax and you will be terrified to give it to him but you will be more terrified to not. As Mom there is no pain, worry or hurt I wouldn't put upon myself to help my child. Today I am adding a new tool to my toolbox, I'm going to try and take his anxiety and fear burden and add it to my own fear and anxiety of the appointment and my fear and anxiety of giving him Xanax. It is my most fervent wish that it helps him, that the appointment goes quickly so that we can put it behind us and grow from the experience. Maybe over time and with enough positive experiences, the Xanax will no longer be necessary. That will be a very good day indeed.   

Always know that these decisions should not be taken lightly and with much consideration by both you and your doctor. It is illegal to give your child medication that is not prescribed to him/her by a licensed practitioner, doing so can put your child's life at risk. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

An Idea That Saved My Sanity

I certainly don't take my sanity lightly, especially when it seems to be slipping away so frequently (admittedly *I* am usually the root cause, not my boys).  Back to school this year brought about an idea born out of sanity necessity:
How do I wake my child up at 5am for school in a way where he won't freak out with a loud alarm?
Reading through out the years suggests that its easier on the body and mind to wake up slowly, becoming aware of the light coming through the window is a way to do that. Just like in the good old days!!

Being the frugal person  I am  I try to be, I knew that the $99-150 light alarms weren't going to happen for us, (if you are interested see here or here)  so I set about finding our own solution for less $$$.

For this project I knew I wanted:

  • The light to turn on sometime between 4:55 am and 5:05 am and stay on until he left on the bus at 6:00am,
  • A soft light without an exposed bulb.
  • Mounted above his headboard to as close as I could get it.
  • While we're at it, lets have the light come on at the start of the bedtime routine at 8:00pm and have it shut off automatically at bedtime (8:30pm). 
  • I didn't want to spend more than $30.
Really all I needed was a digital timer and a lamp!! 

The timer was the easy part although we tried an old fashioned Christmas tree light type timer first and it wasn't as accurate as we wanted, switching to digital was the solution. What we got was something very similar to this: 

The On/Off button has proved to be most helpful for days like today when we have a SNOW DAY!! (I didn't even think of that when we were searching for timers). These run between $10-20... Check your after Christmas sales now since they are mostly used for setting Christmas tree lights. 

Next up: A Lamp! Ikea to the rescue!! Long ago Ikea became my go-to for many of my zany ideas and this time they had *exactly* what I needed! 

I'm sad to report that this model is no longer available according to their website (but I've seen some on ebay), I loved it because the bulb was enclosed, it was wall mountable and the "canister" spun so I could use it as an uplight on really dark mornings when only a little light was needed or a downlight on mornings when the sun rises early and a little extra is necessary.  It's a soft light and not jarring in any way. 

You might not be able to find that exact light but never fear! There are more lights that I think will work just as well: 

This one is a great price at $8.99 but has an exposed bulb, a problem we had planned on solving by facing the light towards another wall or the ceiling. 
This one is pretty and will run you $20 but it's glass so beware if you have an ahem impulsive child like mine ;)

If table lamps work best for you, there are great options too:

This one is paper and costs $6.99

This one is plastic and costs $4.99, these were the first lamps we put in the boys rooms when they were toddlers because they couldn't touch the bulb unless they took apart the lamp first :)

Or maybe this is the perfect time to try out one of these in your decor. I've always liked them but never had a good spot for one! The shade is $4.99, the cord set to run it from the plug up to the ceiling is $5. 

Or in COLORS! ($4.99 for the shade, $5 for the cord set)

Obviously, I've had a lot of fun with the project. In the end it was because it WORKED that made it so much fun.  Each morning his lamp turns on at 5am and although it is not enough to wake him up fully, it is enough to start waking him up without that jarring alarm sound. Once he is out of that deep sleep, just moving around in his room or giving him a hug finishes waking him up and asking about what he wants for breakfast gets him out of bed and talking. The light turns itself off at 6am which is the time we are usually outside waiting for the bus. 

At the end of the day, the light turns itself back on at 7:00pm and shuts off at 8:30pm which has completely stopped any complaining or fussing about not wanting to go to bed or "but I was reading" pleas.  

This has truly saved my sanity, in addition to helping my 12 year old wake up and go to bed it also has the added benefit of being silent so it doesn't also wake up my 9 year old who has a wake up time of 7:00am, not 5:00am.  

Autism chic? Autism decor? Autism crafts? Whatever you want to call it, when I find something that helps I want to share it with everyone! Maybe it will save your sanity as well :)  

PS- I searched for lamps on Ikea's website but obviously they aren't the only place to go for inexpensive lamp styles! I would shop and compare prices on Amazon and Overstock as well.