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Saturday, April 07, 2007


[translation = failure to express oneself adequately and model appropriate behaviour]

I attempt a verbal warning, but end up drooling instead, which severely reduces the impact of my message. But that's what happens when you "fail to research" a matter thoroughly enough prior to going under the knife.

Lately I have had considerably more empathy with my youngest son and his inadequate lip closure. From his earliest days his drool production was supreme, surpassing any dog that I have ever had contact with. [translation = hypersalivation] Then I thought that plastic backed bibs were the solution. A great number of them were utilized throughout the average day, each one discarded as it reached maximum capacity. We were a household of several dozen such items with laundry bills to match. As usual, due to inadequate parental attention, when his neck grew too thick to accommodate the length of strings on the bibs we switched to double T-shirting him, a rare and unrecognised art. Always the glistening chin, the damp T-shirt and the soft open mouth. 'Perhaps he drools because he's concentrating so hard!' was the general conclusion. Strangely, that was in part, the truth. "Oral motor" issues were investigated.

I would hasten to point out that dribbling is not a symptom of autism but it MAY, in some instances, be an indication of poor or low muscle tone. If this is coupled with speech that sounds as if your child has a mouthful of marbles, it would be worthy of further investigation.

Even a sigh also means spittle. My usual state of grumpy has escalated to volatile as I wait for the painkillers to kick in. It has taken me nearly a precious hour to remove all the elastic and replace with newer twangier elastic on my braces, challenging my crocheting skills to say nothing of my patience. I take a deep breath and then seek out the child that I so unjustly admonished.

I take my non verbal autistic child to one side so that I am better able to bury him in a lengthy explanation as to the cause of the higher levels of grumpiness. This is a child that listens best when his body is in motion. This means that whilst technically we are sitting on the sofa together, his body rolls, stretches and squirms, in the way that a cat does when trying to settle. Whilst a cat eventually finds the right spot to nestle done, my son does not.

I explain the ratio of pain to grumpiness in a parent, and possibly other people too. For some reason I feel the need to further justify my parental error and give a scientific version of the same events. Removal of elastic on the braces also removed pressure on the jaw, mouth flies open and floats. When the new elastics are fitted, blood rushes to every nerve ending and screams. I remember to late, that what I know about science can be written on the back of a postage stamp. Why didn’t I think this through before I started? I give up on the scientific explanation and try another tack. It’s as if a nest of money spiders have just exploded in your mouth and are swarming over every surface inside your mouth and over your face and nose.

We clarify the term ‘money spiders,’ together with a visual aid. He points out my error. The spider I have in mind is a red spider mite, not a money spider. He tries hard to hide his scorn at my inferior intellect and poor categorization skills. 46 years on the planet and I appear to be woefully behind in the arachnid department. He takes pity on me and doesn’t dwell upon my error. Mercifully, we move on.

As I close the computer and I check his comprehension. Is this an analogy that works for him or have I just added to his "phobia quotient?" He turns his body in my general direction whilst he jigs his Irish dance, hands clasped in the small of his back, “ you know mum……..for me……for my mouth….it is dah same…….all dah time.”

Can I use that as a definition of "oral defensiveness?"

It would seem that he's not the only one who has difficulty controlling his "body."


Sueblimely said...

What a wonderful and evocative definition. I often try and put myself in the place of my son and try to imagine the intensity of sensory feeling - it is not easy at times. I just accept that they are intense and try to minimize discomfort or anxiety because of it. I have extra motivation for doing so as intense feeling and anxiety in him tends to cause massive vomiting sessions.

kristina said...

The defense rests it case------what do our kids not teach us about ourselves.

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