Saturday, September 11, 2010

A letter to my former dentist...


"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  The fearful are caught as often as the bold"~Helen Keller~



                                                                                            9/11/10


  Dear Family Dentistry,

  I am writing to thank you for the care you have given both Omar and myself. When we moved here five years ago, we were happy to find a dental group that advertised "care for the family".  As we do have four children, it was nice to find a practice we would all be able to go to.

  Your patience with both myself and Omar has been thoroughly appreciated.  As you know I have extreme dental anxiety, your understanding, kindness.... and well... Valium have helped significantly. And Omar? Well that gag reflex gets him every time doesn't it?  He still feels awful for the time he threw up all over your floor even though you assured him that these things happen.  Last week, my kids left feeling pretty good about their dental experience.(even though there were a few minor mishaps)  So you can imagine my dismay when you called to tell us that you would be unable to treat Oscar.

  Now I know that he didn't have the easiest visit. He does have sensory issues like his mom and a gag reflex like his dad. We blame ourselves for not thinking to tell him to close his eyes during the x ray. He was distracted by something he saw at the last minute and moved a little. I also understand that an extreme gag reflex is hard to work around, and that the mint sealant you tried to use made him throw up.  Thankfully it was only on himself and Omar.  Although I have to mention that your jumping back horrified and saying "I can't do this! I can't do this!" didn't really help the situation. Oscar felt pretty bad about that.  I own the fact that I didn't fully prepare him for this visit.  I assumed that  he was scheduled for just a check up. ( his last one went so well ) I didn't think to prepare him for any work being done. I take full responsibility for that. Had I thought to prepare him , it would have been a different experience.  I did try to explain to you that the next time it would be easier. But unfortunately, there won't be a next time, because you don't want to treat him.

  Had you called and simply said "we are afraid that with his gag reflex and sensitivity issues, we won't be able to do the work necessary-and that a pediatric dentist would be better able and more qualified to help"  I would have been more understanding. But you didn't. I again tried to explain that we hadn't properly prepared him, and asked that we give it another try. Instead you you went on to tell us that yours was a practice that didn't really deal with kids and that you didn't carry non flavored sealants.  You don't really deal with kids??? So then why the play area, the toys, the contests-Am I supposed to believe they are there for those wishing to let out their inner child?  What about  THE WEB PAGE that gives a full and detailed description on  how you treat children in your practice?  Or how about the fact that you call yourself "Family dentistry"?  No, what I think you really meant to say was that you don't treat kids like Oscar. Big difference. Non flavored sealants-my bodacious backside!

   You see, the thing about autism or really any other disability, is that sometimes this is all that people notice.  They don't bother looking at the person. Instead, they make assumptions. Kind of like you thinking Oscar can't behave any other way and me thinking I had prepared him enough..We were both wrong. The thing is, I can admit it.   Oh sure, I could send Oscar to a different dentist than his siblings-it certainly would be easier for us. But what would Oscar think?  That is important.  The really disappointing thing?  Is that with just a few minor accommodations, some simple explanations and a lot of preparation (on our part), we could have made this work. Oscar (as you implied) is not going to "out grow" his sensory issues. To tell you the truth, I was stunned when you suggested this.Stunned...  and then you went on to say that he would be welcome back at that time. Wow.  No, Oscar is an autistic kid-who is going to grow up to be an autistic adult. I wonder what people will say to him then. 

  Now, I can continue to kick myself for not having prepared him better( I really do hold myself mostly responsible)-or I can move on.  I choose the latter.  My family will no longer be needing your services as a dentist. Because we are a "family"... and to us "family" means that no one is excluded.

          UPDATE....This phone conversation did indeed happen.  I wasn't clear enough though in the beginning.  It was between Omar, myself and the dental assistant.  The dentist did indeed try and get in touch with me later, but I wasn't home to get the call.  Although I see no point in calling back...sigh...

16 comments:

Big Daddy Autism said...

Good riddance to him. I bet he has had dozens of "typical" adult patients gag, throw up, pass out, scream etc. He probably didn't tell them to come back when they "outgrew" these issues.

KWombles said...

((())) So sorry this happened to Oscar and your family. I think you've handled it well and made a fine point. The dentist's unwillingness to (1) be honest and (2) be compassionated to his patient, who most needed the compassion, should result in him losing five other patients.

K- floortime lite mama said...

ACKKKK
what an idiot of a dentist
Dont blame yourself pleeeeeeze

Jen said...

Very rude behaviour, if this dentist can't be bothered to work around issues then you are better off going somewhere else (unfortunately). His dishonesty speaks volumes! Jen

Sirenity said...

oh Kathleen, how horrid! so sorry you had to deal with this sort of ignorance.
On the positive side, I am sure you will have a much better experience with your next dentist.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

I agree with Jen, for me the worst part of this is the dishonesty of the dentist, hope you find someone better quickly

kathleen said...

Thanks everyone-Yes, it was the dishonesty that really got to me. Had they said that they simply felt they were unable to deal with his sensory issues-I could have worked with that..That they went on to tell me that theres wasn't a practice that had a lot of experience with kids..it was like a slap..I am so disappointed in them..Hopefully, the next dentist will be more understanding-my son deserves dignity and respect-honesty.

jazzygal said...

That's awful Kathleen. How very dare he! You are so better off without him and his discriminatory practise.

I get the being annoyed at yourself for not preparing him for it.... but he was okay the previous time. We all do that.

Yeah... move on with your head held high.... and wiggle that cute bodacious backside of yours ;-)

xx Jazzy

PS. It's funny I had planned at using this format to write about this decision we are awaiting about WiiBoy's education support!! Great minds... eh??!!

Casdok said...

Oh dear. Hope you find a much better one. Honesty counts for so much.

Stephanie said...

I understand the desire to have a place to go for the whole family and certainly understand why you would not want to return to a facility that actively practices prejudice. That being said, a specialized facility may be better for Omar.

I take Alex (whose dental experiences sound similar to Omar's) to a dental clinic associated with the Children's Hospital. This clinic has rooms designed for children with sensory issues and are better equipped to handle all of Alex's needs. It's a 2 hour drive, but I've found it to be 100% worth it to work with professionals who are experienced with children with autism and have even more ideas than I do on how to make the experience better for him.

KWombles said...

Stephanie,

Omar is Kathleen' husband; both he and Oscar have the gag reflex. :-)

I'm wondering, though, if the problem here wasn't that in general it's been difficult (they have a specific issue, the gag reflex, that is pretty common). In other words, the problem wasn't Oscar's autism, it was the dental assistant's unprofessional behavior that was the first problem, coupled with what were obvious lies.

Besides, the dentist was still comfortable with dealing with Kathleen's other children on the spectrum who don't have the gag reflex.

Stephanie said...

Sorry! :-/

I did mean Oscar, not Omar.

The problem is definitely the dental assistant's unprofessional behavior and the clinic that allows it.

At the specialized dental clinic they have a variety of different techniques (both skill & supply based) that they use to avoid triggering the gag reflex. It's not 100% effective, but it's helpful. They're also better able to deal with surprises--like when I prep Alex for one kind of visit and it turns into a different kind of visit.

kathleen said...

Hi Jazzy! Indeed great minds! I have a feeling that if we were ever to meet ...say in a pub...we could cause a lot of trouble..but have so much fun..:)
Hi Casdoc-thanks..and yes-honesty is everything...
Hi Stephanie! Haha..too many "o" names in my family :) I am going to find a place that is willing and not afraid to try. It isn't the atmosphere or the surroundings..he is great about sitting in the chair, opening his mouth..etc. it is when they push on his tongue or put cotton in his mouth-the gagging is so bad. For Omar, they numb him up so that he doesn't feel it...for me-valium. They really went out of their way for both of us-but for Oscar..it is almost like they were afraid of him-it made me very sad. I did send a copy of this post to them...and thanks to the wonder of stat meter I know it has been read. So that makes me feel better.

Stephanie said...

Hopefully they read it and realize the mistake they made. Perhaps the next family won't face such stigma. Sometimes that's the best we can do.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear of this Dear. Some people are just assholes. Love, Ei

kathleen said...

Hi Stephanie-unfortunately they did read it-and instead of addressing my questions...they chose instead to give a detailed breakdown of Oscars visit..i.e. instead of just throwing up..they decided to write "He therw up so violently that it took a team of three people to clean up after him" Sad thing is-this is totally embellished. Which further proves, they are justifying that they won't treat someone with a disability. All they had to say was "We don't feel that we can"...sigh..
Hi Ei-yup-they are. :)