When Head Start started nagging us about finishing our enrollment paperwork, we got really anxious. The form for the doctor I could send in easily. It was the blue form that made me worry. The blue form was for the dentist.
Though four and a half and with one minor tooth injury, Simon had never been to the dentist. He balked at the doctor's office, requiring cajoling, bribing, and major distracting to get him through a basic check up. He has spit on us, thrown his toothbrush at us, slapped, head-butted, and kicked us on occasions we've tried to brush his teeth or show him how to do it himself. And now we had to take him to the dentist, where he would have to lay back in a vestibularly uncomfortable way, have bright lights pointed at him, and loud, hard things shoved in his mouth. We hoped to get out of there without any one being bitten.
I made him a social story, and we got ready to break the news to him. Simon wept. And whined. And begged me not to "let" him go to the dentist. He threw his story. I left the story where he could get it and didn't mention the D word again. As he remembered it, he would cry and whine all over again. Simon kept asking when he was going, so I wrote it on the calendar. April 9th, dentist.
One afternoon close to the big day, he was reviewing the calendar for his days off of school and paused on April 9th. I braced myself, ready to reassure and comfort. Simon turned to me and said, "the dentist has special tools. They aren't scary. They tickle!" Almost word for word, he spouted a line from the social story. He was chipper. He even smiled. Despite my shock and delight, I stayed neutral, affirming the message. Simon gets very distressed when we're too happy about a positive change in his behavior, so I had to wait until he was out of sight to have a little moment of victory.
The day arrived, and Simon willingly readied himself for the visit. He demanded he brush his teeth before his quiet time so that he wouldn't miss the dentist. He asked impatiently on the drive where the dentist was. We walked in the doors, and he started looking for the waiting room and the exam room, as he remembered them from his little dentist book.
Despite momentary panic when the receptionist couldn't find his appointment, then told us we'd been marked as no-shows before our appointment time even happened, we got called through door to the patient care area. An absolutely amazing dental hygienist met us and led Simon through a very successful visit. She was patient, calm, and upbeat, praising Simon for being big, brave, and a good listener. Praise he'll take from an adult that is not his parent. He got anxious when she showed him the straw that sucks everything out of your mouth, and started to resist when she had him try it out. They moved on, and though his breathing was rapid, his body restless, and his little face tired and nervous, he had his teeth brushed and x-rays taken. At one point in the middle of the cleaning, he even said "I like this dentist occasion." From weeping and begging to expressing fondness for the dentist office. This is one huge relief and major victory. We took our son to the dentist.
And yes, we turned in the blue form, and the Head Start office is satisfied.