By Dr. Greg Grillo
As a dentist that works with special needs patients, I have personally seen how difficult a dental visit can be. However, with experience and cooperation with parents and guardians, I have also discovered how important preparation is for a special needs child to have the best dental visit possible.
When speaking to parents about their loved ones, there are some common elements that contribute to success at the dentist’s office. Good oral health and hygiene are essential to the well-being and success of any child and will pay dividends at the dentist office. I also suggest planned activity training - it has shown to be an effective means to prepare for an activity and will encourage good behavior. Another key is to find the right dentist; one that is compassionate and competent, one that has experience working with children with Autism or Down Syndrome.
What Is the Temperament of the Dentist?
Finding the right temperament in the dentist is because you seek a practitioner who specializes in working wiht special needs children. Certified dentists have spent an additional 3 years learning how to properly care for your loved one. If you are unable to find a special needs dentist, ask your friends, ask your dentist, call around. Find someone that is receptive to treating your loved one. Finding someone that understands your child’s needs, establishes a good rapport, and is patient and receptive will make the experience more beneficial as well as more pleasant. Whether you find a special needs dentist or not, you are going to want to communicate with your dentist what needs your loved one has, and what to expect.
Applying “planned activity training” (PAT) to prepare your child for the hardship of the dentist will be helpful. Incorporating this approach broadly well before seeing the dentist will make the dentist seem less startling and uncomfortable. PAT is a way to communicate with your loved one what exactly they can expect. I encourage you to do research on this technique.
Practice Through Play at Home
Start by preparing the child mentally and physically. For especially difficult settings make sure they are well-fed, have had adequate sleep and have everything they need. Bring something pleasant to occupy them during downtime. Explain the activity and the rules of behavior for that activity. Without being deceitful, try to exclude or diminish the unsavory elements of going to the dentist. If the opportunity is there, perhaps allow your loved one to see you having your teeth cleaned so they will be more comfortable and understand that it is not a punishment, but something even you must do. Explain rewards they may expect for good behavior and try to give choices whenever possible to allow the child to have some degree of investment in the activity. For the dental visit, highlight the fact they could choose the flavor of their toothpaste perhaps. Applying this approach seems to make the experience more pleasant for everyone.
If your loved one doesn’t already, establish routine brushing, flossing and the use of mouthwash as well. If your loved one has issues with these, do not force them, rather, consider teaching by example or incorporating positive reinforcement. Make dental hygiene a fun bonding experience. Make sure to comment on the benefits of brushing to protect their beautiful smile. Let them choose a flavor of mouthwash, toothpaste, and floss. Maybe play a favorite song of theirs to make it a more joyful activity and to cue when they have brushed long enough (a song around 2 mins). Make a fun activity out of oral hygiene and make that the routine. If they do not engage themselves, make yourself a visible and continual example and they are likely to join in. Once they begin to practice a good routine make sure you continue to reinforce their adherence to that routine, keep it fun and never diminish the accomplishment of maintaining a healthy mouth.
A happy child is a healthy child. Do not neglect or diminish the importance that oral health plays in the overall happiness of your loved one. With a proactive attitude, some effort and the right dentist, your child can benefit from a dental visit without a struggle.
For further information regarding dentistry for autistic patients, check out
For downs syndrome,
Dr. Greg spent graduated with honors from the School of Dentistry at the University of Washington. He joined the United States Navy and served for 4 years and then returned home to join the practice of his farther Dr. Jerry Grillo. Dr Greg enjoys working as a dentist, writing about dentistry and spending quality time with his family.
Emotionally healthy children do better in school, find more success as adults, and lead happier lives. They can be happy and fulfilled as they grow up.
Follow these strategies to increase your children’s emotional wellbeing:
1. Be open about your feelings. The world isn’t always positive, and you may have struggled. It helps your children understand your feelings if they see the reality of the world.
- Kids copy their parents, so they’ll mimic your emotions.
- As an emotionally healthy adult, you’ll show your kids that it’s normal to have both positive and negative feelings. If you’re open about them, they’ll be able to learn from you.
- You may be tempted to protect your children from your real emotions. However, you’ll miss a teaching opportunity.
2. Avoid judging feelings. Adults sometimes criticize others and their feelings. Your kids are always watching, so they learn to judge others too.
- When you judge and criticize the emotions of others, you show your kids that it’s normal to make fun of or mock other people.
- They can suffer emotional damage because they learn to criticize others or become scared to show their own feelings.
- It’s also important to avoid labeling feelings as good or bad. Sometimes you may be happy, and sometimes you may be sad, but both are normal. Help your children to accept and not to be ashamed of how they feel.
3. Avoid telling your kids how to feel. When you try to control a child’s emotions, the situation often gets worse and leads both of you down a dangerous path.
- You can’t control every aspect of your child’s life. If you try to tell children how to feel, they can become scared to show their true emotions. They learn that they can’t be honest about their feelings, so they stifle or hide them.
- When you tell your kids they have to be happy, you prevent them from figuring out why they don’t feel this way.
- Parents often feel that their kids are an extension of their personalities and expect them to act and feel the same way. However, each child is a unique individual. You can’t expect them to feel the same way as you.
4. Resolve your emotional wounds. You’ll find it difficult to teach your kids how to deal with their feelings when you’re struggling with your own. Kids naturally copy their parents, so they may pick up on your traumas.
- Take care to prevent the emotional wounds from your past or present from carrying over to your children.
5. Ask questions. Kids benefit from opportunities to discuss their emotions. Ask questions and find out how they feel, rather than assuming what they’re feeling.
- When you ask about their feelings, your kids will learn to articulate them. They’ll learn to express their thoughts and emotions.
Emotionally healthy children grow up to be successful and happy adults. They’ll also be able to use these skills when they get older and face challenges. The ability to be emotionally available and knowledgeable is a powerful tool. Your kids will enjoy great advantages from learning about their feelings.
. How we parents communicate and demonstrate conversations with our children speaks louder than any intention or goal. A parent coach or family consultant trains parents and family members in communications skills. How are your communications skills?
Not Like This
"Caron, speak up." My father screamed. Other statements he used were....
"Quit mumbling. Stop mumbling. You are driving me nuts."
My father was a man with a hearing loss, probably acquired from his stent of service in the second world war. He boasted how he was lucky to be alive despite the shard of metal in his brain. He drank a lot which often resulted in being a happy drunk until he couldn't hear what one of his children said. Then, his short fuse resulted in the not-so-nice screaming bout.
The story of my father demonstrates how truly important establishing two-way communication within families is. Two-way communication implies two people are speaking, but also listening, as well as respecting, opinions and solutions. Two-way communication suggests that listening receives as much respect as speaking.
Communication styles are characterized by the way people want to appear and be heard:
- People want to look (or attempt to appear) a certain way when communicating. For example, it was necessary to my father that he raised his voice and corrected me because he was the "boss."
Unclear, poor communication leaves family members unhappy and lonely. If your communication skills are lacking, then a family member may be miserable and feel alone. These tips can help you improve the opportunities for being heard, speaking your truth, and inviting conversations with your children.
Ten Right-Way Communication Skills for the Home
Fostering a more favorable environment in your home includes offering opportunities for discussions and space for disagreements, Try these communication strategies
1. Be open and honest with one another. While being honest, be kind when saying something that may cause a family member any distress. Children are more receptive to calm voices, kind words, and tone of voice, but then, isn't everyone?
2. Have some fun each day. Family fun doesn't have to take up a lot of time. It can be as simple as having ice cream cones or playing with your pets. Simple tasks or rituals make a significant difference in how the communication flows in a home, mainly when people are engaged in functions together.
3. Set priorities for chores that everyone must do. Agree on who does what chores and when they should do them, so everyone participates in age-appropriate tasks. Write them on a chore chart ahead of time to prevent arguments!
4. Keep privacy boundaries. Adults and kids both need their privacy on a regular basis. Ensure that the kids understand the importance of respecting this priority.
5. Have a family meeting each week to discuss family issues. Find a time in which everyone in the family can attend. Hold the meeting every week, preferably at the same time. In the meeting, let each family member speak their mind, even if it's a complaint. Solve challenges, run ideas by each other, and make plans for the future together.
6. Allow free time. Everyone needs some time to do things on their own or with their friends. Meeting this need will help each family member feel more satisfied, fulfilled, and open to communicating.
7. Spend holidays and special events together as a family. Strengthen your family bond with special occasion family traditions. Let the kids share their ideas about the occasion, too.
8. Establish a weekly family night. Make time just to enjoy being together. Watch movies, play games, or have story time. Encourage laughter and open communication.
9. Learn to negotiate. Learning to compromise and come up with win-win solutions for everyone involved is a priceless skill that will serve your family members well throughout their lives.
10. Say, "I love you." Each day, remember to show your spouse and kids how much you love them. Share loving, encouraging words and hugs freely throughout the day - even if it's a hard day, especially if it's a hard day!)
A happy home promotes a supportive place to live, play, and look forward to the future! A comfortable home welcomes your loved ones when they return from work or other outings. They can leave the stresses of the outside world behind as they enter the warm sanctuary of home. Practice these communication strategies to create an inviting environment in your home because you shape the foundation for your child's ability to get along in life.
Fulfill Your Calling and Train as a Family Coach