Back on Track
To the Sound of Music

A Lesson in Efficiency

Dentist success at 8.07am

Charlie's 8am dentist appointment on Monday probably clocked in as one of the speediest ever. He got his teeth checked (no cavities and minimal plaque build-up), brushed (with his own toothbrush and preferred toothpaste) and fluoride applied in under ten minutes.

We all decided (quickly) that there was no need to scrape Charlie's teeth---the dentist has been able to do this at previous appointments but it seems best now to have that sort of thing done when Charlie does not have to be coaxed to 'say ah' and sit for one minute longer in the dentist chair. Twice yearly appointments for check-ups (just to make sure there are no major teeth issues like an abscessed tooth or a bunch of cavities) and dental surgery for big cleanings and fillings and such: At this time in Charlie's life these seem the best options. Enough plus that Charlie did well in the brief time he was at the dentist's office Monday and that he got a fluoride treatment; that he brushes his teeth though rather too hastily---certainly better than nothing.

Sure I was hoping Charlie would so learn to tolerate dentist visits that he might one day be able to have braces put on. It's been a long time since we entertained such thoughts, our focus now on 'good dental health' and keeping dentist visits as peaceable as possible. Charlie does not, indeed, need them, except for cosmetic reasons---reasons which, in the grand scheme of autismland things, matter pretty minimally.

What does matter was that Charlie, thanks to one viewing of a a Stories2Learn social story, fully understood where he was going Monday morning. In fact, he got up before 7am (it did help that we set the clocks back here in the US on Sunday morning to regular time so Charlie's body clock was an hour ahead of the clock time) and was dressed and saying 'doctor' while Jim and I were still scurrying around to get out the door. When you factor in all of his sensory sensitivities, a dentist office must seem like an amusement park of sounds, colors, smells, sensations. Charlie was smiling away when we entered the dentist's office and, while not going to sit in the chair one second longer than he did, did well.

Charlie was fine going to school afterwards and, while we did note him tapping on his mouth more than usual, he was ok. He did his usual afternoon bike ride with Jim and had a good time hanging out with my parents. He did have trouble going to sleep and wanted a second bike ride but of course it was too late and, while Charlie clearly had a lot of energy in him, he managed ok staying in the house, and running up and down the stairs quite a bit.

Eventually we (well, some of us, Charlie included) donned sweatshirts and gloves and went out walking. The air was warmer than it had been earlier. By the time we got back home, a whole panoply of stars was out.

You get what needs to get done, no more and no less, and then you carry on with the next thing, and the next.

Late afternoon early November bike ride



He did so well at the dentist's! It's also a really big advantage for Charlie to associate stories he's read with his real life activites - and with real future events. He may turn out to be as avid a reader, in his own way, as you and Jim.

You've had Charlie copy letters, words, sentences. Does Charlie ever tell you sentences that could be put into a social story? Charlie could be the author, even if it's only one or two words or lines.

The story about him running up and down the stairs - a big boy in big sneakers on old wooden staircases from the '20s - creates the impression of force and energy that one can only imagine. *I*certainly can, because we have had one of those running up and down the same sort of stairs for six or so years now. Does Charlie jump onto the landing at the stair-turn? It makes such a satisfying "thump!" even as it makes parents a bit fearful for the floorboards.

It seems that Charlie has so much physical energy that what he wants is some way to spend it. You previously decided against an exercise bike because he prefers to see new things as he exercises. (Who doesn't?)

But running up and down the stairs doesn't show him new sights, either, so perhaps he is growing into a period where he just has to be *moving,* burning calories. Perhaps a stair-step machine? A Nordic Trak? An elliptical trainer? (We have a Nordic Trak you can try, if you like.)


It's good that Charlie will tolerate dentist visits. Some of my former students literally had green teeth and breath that would knock over a rhino because they refused to brush. Physical appearance is very important in our society and good looking people fare better in general. Charlie is fortunate in that he is tall and handsome. If braces aren't vital for his dental health he looks like he doesn't have a bad bite and you'll probably do well to forgo them. I've heard about kids on the spectrum who have taken their braces apart because they were uncomfortable.


@Louise, ah, again you mention the exercise machine! We are gathering up a store of cold weather clothes for cold winter treks. I mostly base the social stories on charlie's interests which are things he tends to talk about, like my parents.  

@Jill, our dentist told us about a child who ripped his braces off his teeth.


Please forgive my rudeness in mentioning something that you have already ruled out very emphatically as an alternative exercise program. I have no desire to be a pest. It was a friendly offer, nothing more.

Kristina Chew

Thanks very much for your generosity, Louise!

Cecania Tallmadge

Looks like he's cooperating well with the whole procedure! And hooray for having no cavities! Do you help him out in making his teeth healthy? How often does Charlie visit his dentist?

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