Monday, November 8, 2010

Setting a Scream-Free Example

My wife and I went for a health screening on Saturday morning. It was the highlight of our son’s weekend.

Kai has been seeing DAN (Defeat Autism Now!) doctors for over four years. As the doctors need results from blood tests, that means that for over four years now, a couple times per year, we endure the ordeal of helping to draw blood from our son.

It would be a severe understatement to say that Kai is not a good patient when it comes to blood tests. He hates being stuck with a needle and begins screaming and fighting as soon as the nurses start to prep him. “I WANT TO LEAVE RIGHT NOW! I WANT TO GO HOME!” The whole process involves four people. Three of us – me, my wife, and a nurse –try to hold his body still, while another nurse tries to collect the blood.

Despite three of us holding him down, Kai can sometimes still move a bit. That makes it hard for the nurse to find a vein and stick the needle. Often, Kai’s body is so tense that the nurse does not have success on the first attempt and has to stick him multiple times. Of course, that only prolongs his agony and increases his protests. His blood-curdling screams reverb throughout the entire clinic. “AAAHHHH! ALL DONE! STOP! STOP IT RIGHT NOW!” I’m surprised that any other patients stick around after hearing the torture my son is put through.

The whole thing takes about ten times longer than if he just cooperated. At the end, he is relieved, but not any more so than my wife and I.

On Saturday, it was our turn to get “pinched” as he calls it. He looked forward to it the whole week and couldn’t have been more delighted. He said that he would hold our hands to comfort us in what surely would be a very painful experience for us.

He was very happy as we walked into the clinic. I went first. He eagerly stood beside me so he could get a close look. At each step, he asked the nurse, “Now what are you doing?” Kai seemed genuinely interested to see the process. I think when it is happening to him, he is fighting too much to see what is going on.

When it came time for the “pinching,” he put his arm around me. It was over in just a minute or so. I used the moment as a teaching opportunity and explained how it went so fast because I did not fight.

Mom went next and Kai comforted her as well. Before long, we were all done.

I don’t know if this will help him to stay calm next time. But, at least now he knows that he not the only one to get “pinched.” And, that Mom and Dad can do it without screaming. Not a bad little field trip for a Saturday morning.

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