WHY I WORK SO HARD FOR MOBY’S SMILE – AND THE SMILES OF SO MANY OTHER CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
I was one of the happiest women in the world when I gave birth to my son Moby. My husband and I had longed for a second child, at the same time, my 1st son continued to ask for a brother.
And so I once again reveled in the joys of motherhood with my new son – carrying Moby in my arms, smelling his sweet baby breath as I bent over to feed him. Everything was as it should be, but as he grew from infant to toddler, a few things puzzled me because he would stare at our spinning ceiling fan or not babble much.
For instance, even at 1 1/2 years, he was still not talking, which was unlike his older brother (and to be honest, unlike anyone else in our family, as everyone always seems to be talking any chance they get). And when we gave him a toy car, he would spin it, instead of pretending to drive it. There were many other instances of his behavior that gave us concern, and so we decided to bring him to a doctor. As a health care provider, I noticed the significant developmental delays as well. It was then that we found out the reason behind Moby’s silence. We were told that Moby had autism, and that because of this condition, he would struggle to communicate and get himself understood.
I was confronted with a future of my son not speaking, not having many friends, not having sleepovers, and not playing baseball or basketball with his teammates. I cried for him and felt it was my fault that he had autism. Could it have been something I ate, drank or exposed him to? I would look into his eyes and call his name, but he would not respond. On top of all these thoughts I had, one more thought popped into my head – how would I care for his teeth? (Being a dentist, I just couldn’t help it). If he cannot talk, how can he express any pain he may have? How would I make sure that he does not suffer from the pain of a toothache?
My husband and I were determined that Moby would not suffer and that we would be able, as best we could, to give Moby all the opportunities to be the best that he could be despite his learning disability. We started devouring literature about autism, we worked with Moby on therapy sessions, and we compared notes with other parents in similar situations. And I discovered that so many other children with special needs struggle to get themselves understood, and that because of the many problems they have, their dental care often gets neglected. It’s already a struggle to bring neurotypical toddlers to a dentist – for children with special needs, it becomes more challenging, and a struggle that can, more often than not, be too difficult and stressful for the parents.
It’s a challenge I have learned to carry though, and the lessons I have learned I have been only too happy to share with other parents. It is never going to be easy to care for a child with special needs on a day-to-day basis, let alone bringing him or her to that dreaded visit to the dentist. But Moby has taught me that patience and care will eventually be rewarded with a smile. And that smile more than makes up for any hardship I go through.
Dr. Maria de los Reyes is a General Dentist and the mother of Moby. Dr. Maria is a member of autisminterventionbayarea group, supports SFCD (Support for Families of Children with Disabilities), and various support groups. Dr. Maria understands behavioral management to help desensitize and lessen the anxiety of children as they come for a dental check up. The KSD team can identify reinforcers that will motivate your child to keep coming back for dental cleanings and exams. KSD will announce work shops provided by Dr. Maria. For more information, please contact Dr. Maria at firstname.lastname@example.org t:415.347.3817. Kingstdental is located at 170 King Street, Suite 105, San Francisco, CA 94107