Dentistry and Autism
Today we had the privilege of working with pre-K autistic kids at McKinley Elementary School. The teachers welcomed us with open arms and much gratitude. We visited 5 classrooms, each with 7-8 kids ranging from ages 3-5. They were all mild to severe autistic kids. Afterwards, we were worn down from the difficulties of trying to get their attention for more than 30 seconds, if that at all.
Even though there were only 7-8 kids per classroom, they were all on different levels of attention span. Every class has a vocal kid, a shy kid, a "don't touch me" kid, a screaming/crying kid, a fazed out kid, and of course a cooperative kid(s). After 13+years of working with the special needs population, I've seen a lot of amazing and sad things. The sad things are the lack of parental involvement with their child's daily activity like nightly brushing or just reading to your child. The amazing things are the unconditional commitment and devotion to their child. Like everything else that makes a difference in a child's life, parental involvement is pivotal.
My heart goes out to the kids who lack the latter. As a dentist, when I see a 4 y.o. child with multiple cavities or poor hygiene, it makes me sad. Unless the child has an underlining medical issue, this condition is preventable. It just takes about 3 minutes each night to build a routine. But I also understand it's hard to hear your child scream when you're trying to brush his/her teeth. It's not a blame game. It's just better to try to work together to get the dental hygiene down.
I think it's awesome that their teachers are so devoted to their overall health and development. How often does one get to see positive human beings being compassionate and encouraging toward another person? I know teachers are supposed to be all that but not all teachers are created equally. So when I had the chance to speak to these teachers, I am so inspired and in awe. They do their job so gracefully. I'm swept away by the sincerity of their voices. These kids are lucky to have their teachers. They fought the district to have the kids brush at school so they can monitor them. They just want to know that their students are brushing at least once a day. That is sweet. We can't teach sincerity but we can teach compassion. Go pre-K teachers at McKinley Elementary School. You guys are the advocates we want to have.