As parents of autistic children, we as a community seem to receive a good amount of unsolicited and unwanted parenting advice and opinions from family, friends and even strangers. Why these people seem to be under the impression that this is appropriate behavior or conversation, I do not know. If someone should ask my opinion about their neurotypical child I may give them my opinion – I may not, (especially since I do not have a neurotypical child to base my opinion on) but either way, I will most certainly not tell them that they are “doing it all wrong” or give an opinion in front of their child. As a general rule, if not asked I will keep my mouth shut. I do not understand why it always seems to be open season on us, our parenting skills and our children….
Dear Everyone At The Table:
Let’s just get this all over with now so I don’t have to listen to it in increments throughout the evening, shall we?
1. “Can’t he do that himself?”
Yes, he is perfectly capable of getting up and getting his own food, but I am closer and offered to do it for him. What about this could possibly concern you?
2. “Does he use that much salt at home?”
No, as a matter of fact he doesn’t use ANY salt at home. (See post) – I do not even buy salt as I don’t use it either. He and I together probably consume less salt than any single average person would. Someone along the way must have shown him that salt is used for something other than fairy dust so he does feel the need to use it when we go out to eat.
3. “Does he eat that much at home?”
No he doesn’t. Not even close. He would if I let him, but I don’t. Yes, he gets a little bit carried away when we are out, but one of his favorite things in life is going out to eat so what would be the fun in it if he doesn’t get to have what he likes?
4. “You should make him order a salad with his meal. Does he eat any vegetables?”
He eats a good amount of vegetables, probably more than you do. In his mind, salad and vegetables are not “out to eat” foods. (See answer #3) I don’t believe that I will have to rush him to the hospital for not having vegetables at this one meal. He eats a good amount of fruit too, but I am sure you will now point out how much sugar there is in fruit so I guess I may as well be giving him candy.
5. “Does he exercise? He looks like he could use some exercise”
He walks and goes to the Y at least 3 to 4 times a week. Not to mention the jumping and dancing he does quite continuously when he is at home. He also runs cross country in the fall and takes Zumba every time the class is offered.
6. “He’s put on a lot of weight. You really need to watch what he eats.”
He is on seizure medication – this is one side effect of said medication. I watch what he eats every day (see answer #3).
He exercises daily (see answer #5)
So with all of that being said; Would it be possible to reserve this and any further conversation about his weight or eating habits for a time when he is, you know, not sitting right here. My preference would be at a time when I am not here either.
If you should have any other comments or unsolicited opinions on any subject regarding my child, please reserve them for that same time.
While I am not or have ever been in the habit of commenting on everyone at this table’s parenting skills, I do have a list in my head going way back over the years that I can access at a moments notice. I am not afraid to use it…
DC always had a problem with brushing his teeth. Like most things hygiene-wise, if he can not see it, he does not understand it. If his hands are not dirty (dirt that he can actually see) then why should he have to wash his hands so often? Why take a shower, wash his face, brush his teeth? If he can’t see it, it does not exist. No amount of explanation on my part makes it any clearer to him. He does all of these “chores” because I tell him to and only because I tell him to. And because it is something that I am telling him to do he, not really understanding, will pretty much just go through the motions. Yes, he is sent back to do it again and yes, many times I have to stand there to be sure he is doing it correctly or just do it myself.
Brushing his teeth was always the hardest for him.
About a year ago, I was reading a post from Autism-Mom about dental hygiene (the post below is an updated version of the post I originally read). A portion of that post was devoted to a toothbrush specially designed for children on the spectrum. Just by looking at the photo, before even reading the particulars, it made perfect sense. I ordered some for DC and while I was at it I ordered some for myself, since I seem to spend my life in the dentist’s office. It couldn’t hurt, right?
I have to say that even when he just goes through the motions this toothbrush has improved his brushing enormously. I rarely have to send him back to brush again and I have not had to do it for him – not even once.
Here’s the kicker….
I had a dental appointment this morning (with the good dentist and the good hygienist at the good dental practice – not theperiodontist ). I only just opened my mouth and she said “Oh My God! You have no stain! What have you been doing?”
I drink A LOT of coffee and staining, specifically behind my front teeth is always a big job – a power tool – worthy job. I told her that the only thing that was different was the new toothbrush. She immediately looked it up on Amazon, called another hygienist in to see it and decided she would buy a few. I told her that the last time I was at the periodontist – the last time I stayed for the appointment – that is, he had made the same observation. The lack of stain was what first impressed her, but once we got past that excitement, it seemed that everything had improved, even after missing a cleaning.
(I do normally have a cleaning every three months, alternating between the periodontist and my regular dentist but I missed my last appointment with her because it was scheduled on the Monday after my step-father’s wake and funeral weekend and it just slipped my mind.)
It always seems as if I am fighting a loosing battle with my teeth, which were perfect until I was pregnant with DC and my teeth seemed to go straight downhill. This was THE fastest and least painful cleaning I have ever had. For the never-ending amount of time that I usually spend in the dental chair, this was a fantastic thing!
DENTAL HEALTH – BRUSHING HIS GUMS – via: Autism-Mom (reprinted with permission)
As the Navigator gets closer to entering puberty and adolescence, I have been thinking about how to add an increasing number of personal hygiene tasks to his routines.
Especially since we are still struggling with basic tooth brushing.
The Navigator doesn’t like brushing his gums. We have tried traditional toothbrushes, followed up by rubbing his gums, but he was not remotely interested in doing that. It took too long as far as he was concerned.
He liked using an electric toothbrush with a spinning head, but that did not solve the issue of his uncleaned gums.