Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How to Win Toys and Influence People

Narrator (preferably Morgan Freeman, though James Earl Jones will suffice, if Morgan is busy inventing Bat-toys or something): "On today's episode of Motherhood's Truest Confessions, Danielle tells us why she doesn't like taking her kids to the doctor.  Tune in at 11:00 for all of the sordid details."

There it is, folks - one of my dirty little secrets.  I dread taking my children to the doctor.  It isn't because I don't like (or trust) our pediatrician.  The very opposite is true...I trust his judgment implicitly, and although some people would be put off by a doctor who is forthright and fact-driven, I actually respond well to that.  Beating around the bush gets you nowhere with me.  Let's just put the problem out there so that we can meet it head-on.

No, over the past ten years, appointments with the doctor have left me on edge because we always seem to be hit with something new - allergies, asthma, autism (I'm starting to develop an aversion to the letter A).  We get referred to specialists.  We get orders for testing.  Don't get me wrong...I would MUCH rather address the issue and get everything under control than adopt a "wait and see" attitude.  It can just get a little overwhelming from time to time.  Every once in a while, I just get that whole, "When are we gonna catch a break?" feeling.

I was particularly nervous about taking Owen in for his four-year well-child visit today.  This was his first wellness check since he was diagnosed with autism back in May.  Sure, we've popped in for a couple other things, but it was the first time that he was looked over from head to toe for a physical with our regular pediatrician.  I've been plagued with worry for days...

What if he thinks we're not working hard enough with him?
What if he scoffs at the fact that Owen isn't even CLOSE to potty-trained yet?
What if Owen throws a massive tantrum in the middle of the appointment?
What if, heaven forbid, he discovers yet another thing that might be wrong?

All that worry was - as worry usually is - for naught.

Owen is continuing to grow at a pretty good rate.  Today, he weighs 36 pounds and is 41 inches tall.  According to our doctor's growth chart, that puts him right at about the 50th percentile for both weight and height.  I don't think that's too bad for a child who met the world weighing less than six pounds.

Our pediatrician was very pleased at the progress that Owen has made over the past year.  He actually commented more than once that he can tell I've done a lot of research about autism and that we all have worked very hard to get Owen the best help that is available.  He believes that Owen is much calmer, vastly more verbal, and quite a bit happier than he was at this same point last year.  I suppose I would agree.  It's hard to gauge that sometimes, since we have a much greater understanding of autism than we had several months ago, which enables us to recognize behaviors that we never would have given a second thought to in the past.  So, while Bill and I are inclined to say that we think his autistic traits are more obvious in some ways now, he is also much more acclimated to the world around him, receptive to new situations, and able to deal with sensory overload more easily (either that, or we've learned how to step in and eliminate outside frustrations before he deteriorates into a full-blown meltdown).

Our pediatrician did indicate that he wanted to send Owen over to our hospital laboratory to have his ferritin level checked.  Ferritin is a protein that stores iron and releases it throughout the body.  Low ferritin levels are an indication of a poor supply of iron to the body.  There are some indications that there is a high prevalence of iron deficiency in children with autism and that the difficulties caused by this deficiency can be plentiful.  Iron is necessary for both physical and behavioral functions, so a severe enough iron deficiency may cause cognitive delays, behavioral issues, and a host of other problems.  There are even some studies that have indicated that a lack of iron can lead to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  In light of these issues, our doctor felt it important to take a look at Owen's ferritin level.  He instructed us to go ahead and begin giving Owen a multivitamin and DHA daily, and indicated that we would discuss additional treatment, should his ferratin level prove problematic.

Just a hop, skip, and jump later, we were at our hospital's laboratory.  Praise the Lord for small favors...Owen has excellent veins.  My veins are absolutely atrocious, a trait that I've apparently passed down to Joshua.  Thankfully, Owen was spared this hardship (he has enough to deal with, I'd say!)  In an effort to make the situation as trauma-free as possible, I put Owen in his OT vest as soon as we arrived at the hospital.  It worked wonders...until we walked into the lab.

Our phlebotomist (who was approximately 12 years old), had me sit down in the chair and hold Owen on my lap.  When she tied the tourniquet onto his arm, Owen asked, "Are you sick?" (That would be, "Am I sick?" in Owen-ese.)  The phlebotomist said, "Awwww! No, buddy; just a test."  As she approached him with the needle, he immediately began to lose it.  "No, no, no!  It hurts!  No!"  He's only had one blood draw that I can think of, and that was over a year ago.  Somehow, he remembers it.  The phlebotomist started to back up and said, "Awww!  Now I don't want to do it," and looked incredibly sad.  She then tried to get her helper to do it instead (seriously!)  No dice.  When she finally stuck him, he began crying big, fat tears and said, "I'm sorry!"  Apparently, somewhere in Owen's mind, needles are equated with punishment.  Not that I disagree.  The poor phlebotomist was a wreck. I seriously thought she was going to cry for a minute.

We have long had a very special rule in our house...needle sticks - whether for shots, blood draws, finger pricks, whatever - result in a new toy.  All it took was me saying, "Are you ready to go get a new toy?" and Owen's tears slowed immediately.  That in itself is a true testament to Owen's improvement.  Had this happened four months ago, he would still have been having a fit two hours later.  I guess we really have made strides!

He's been eyeballing this computer for was the day (yay, clearance!)

The tradition of needles = toys stems from my own childhood.  Any time I had to have a needle stick, my grandma would do something nice for me.  I'm pretty sure my shots hurt her more than they hurt me!  When I had my physical for college, I got my finger pricked to have my iron checked.  Just a finger prick.  My grandma took me out to dinner, got my hair cut, and bought me a new outfit.  I might have been a little bit spoiled.  Maybe.  I'm not sure.  At any rate, Owen's long-desired toy computer cured whatever ills may have remained from his less-than-stellar blood draw experience.  By the time we got to the car, the entire thing had been forgotten.  If only we, as adults, were so easily contented.  We should all be so ready to look at the good things that we have and move past the bad.

All in all, we had a pretty successful day.  It's nice to hear from an independent source that Owen's improvements are visible.  Sometimes, we feel as though we're just walking on a treadmill.  We walk, and we walk; our breathing grows labored, and our legs grow heavy, but we never seem to get anywhere.  It's good to know that we're apparently moving from the treadmill and out to the sidewalk.  There are so many more things to see out there.

Cue Morgan Freeman:  "Tune in tomorrow, as Danielle tells us how Owen does with his EEG.  Will he sleep through the latter half, like he's supposed to do?  Will he lie still?  Will he have a complete meltdown from dozens of wires being attached to his head?  These answers and more, on the next episode of Motherhood's Truest Confessions."

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