Day #214 – Puzzle Certified

Of all things I know and have experienced, one thing is for sure.  I wish I knew then what I know now.  I recognize hindsight is 20/20…but when your ‘writing purpose’ is projected back to you?  Oh boy…that’s awesomeness.

When I began writing my goal was to simply help others understand, be aware, and increase acceptance.  If I could help just one person, JUST ONE, not to have to cry as much or feel as alone as I had – then it would all be worth it.

A very kind man contacted me yesterday and told me that this blog is changing his life.  His son was recently identified and he feels like everything he reads on this blog mirrors his life.  I cried.  I cried a lot.

I cried because he won’t have to cry as much as I did, he won’t have to feel alone. He knows that we are out here – we’re honest, we’re funny, we’re advocates of love.

If I could have one thing that would have made life easier it would have been this…

Puzzle Certification



Not as in doing puzzles that are certified.  I want a ‘Puzzle Certified’ movement.

Yesterday I wrote about the grinding of teeth – while that is not awesome, there is one thing less awesome.  The Dentist Office…followed by The Doctor Office…followed by the Hair Salon (see Day# – 188 – Getting Hairs Cut)…followed by a variety of other offices…

Here is what I know.

If, nine years ago, I could have walked up to a dentist office and saw this multi-colored puzzle piece and recognized it as an ‘Autism Friendly’ location, I would have paid a double deductible.  I’m not joking.  Not joking one bit.

I would have brought cupcakes with me.

Or my famous cheesecake.

Or steak sandwiches.

I knew these places would be very difficult – offices full of different smells, lights, people, sounds, and machines.  The ‘checking over’ of one’s body is difficult for most of us – but when a child has difficulty with their senses?  It’s the holy grail of meltdowns and stress and chaos and anxiety.

Our very first dentist appointment went great – but only because I initiated a trial run with our dentist at the time.  (Feel free to steal this idea.)  I let the dentist and his staff know what we were facing – I pared down our difficulties to a five-minute conversation, I answered their questions, and I provided pieces of advice.  Then, we had a trial run appointment two days before his real appointment.

It. Was. Awesome.

When we arrived they welcomed Tucker (just like they would two days later).
Then we sat and waited (just like we would two days later).
The hygienist called us back (just like she would two days later).
She reclined him in the chair (just like she would two days later).
She showed him the tools (just like she would two days later).
She talked about what she would do with each tool (just like she would two days later).
She let Tucker run the tools and feel them (that was a one-time deal ;))
Then the dentist came (just like he would two days later).
He told Tucker all about what he was going to do (just like he would two days later).
He answered (what seemed like) a thousand questions (just like he would two days later).
He shook Tucker’s hand and told him he was excited to see him in two days.
The hygienist led us out (just like she would do two days later).
The ladies at the desk said good-bye (just like they would do two days later).

Two days later?  The appointment went without a hitch.

That dentist office?  They deserved a HUGE prize and a HUGE thank-you.  They made the dentist okay.

Then….we moved.  I had serious anxiety to begin this process over.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to begin over because we  found an amazing dentist and staff.

If I had the ‘power,’ I would print an 8×10 of the above picture and put it on Dr. Young’s door.

I prepared the folks there just a bit – telling them about Tucker.  We didn’t have to do near as much prep work because he knew about the process, the equipment, the feelings.  Know what happened?  They were AWESOME.  They continue to be awesome.

Last fall he had to have a cavity filled and that meant Novocaine.  Tucker was a basket case (like many children, I get that). He would not settle, he wanted me to go back with him and while I usually resist, I could tell he was going to have a meltdown.  He would not lay back.  He continued asking questions to delay the inevitable.  He started to cry.  He wouldn’t open his mouth.  Finally, Dr. Young said – “Let’s just give him a little bit of the nitrous oxide to calm him and take the edge off.” What?!?!  I had no idea he would or could do that.

He did – but you know the best part?  He told Tucker it was okay – that everyone gets nervous at times.  Then you know what he did?  He talked him through EVERY part of what he was doing.  EVERY PART – every instrument, every move, everything.  Finally, I saw Tucker relax.

In the words of Tucker, “I love Dr. Young, he’s awesome.  I still hate what he does.  He has a horrible occupation.”  Fair enough – I think many of us feel that way about the dentist.

‘My’ idea is gaining traction though.  The Capital Health Media Center – Hopewell is located in New Jersey and launched the first ‘autism-friendly’ pediatric emergency department.  It’s true…and it’s awesome.  What exactly did they do?

Hospital staff in the pediatric unit spent the past few months receiving specialized training to recognize behaviors associated with autism and provide a calming setting to better cater to patients’ specific needs, said Heather Keller, nurse manager of pediatric services. (

Seriously.  There is SO much good stuff in this article I just have to copy/paste some of it here…

  • “They do not like fluorescent lighting at all, so you turn down the lights. We have an overhead light that we shine in the corner,” Keller said.
  • The 17-bed pediatric emergency department at Capital Health – Hopewell is separate from its adult emergency department. The “autism-friendly” pediatric department will be rolled out in Hopewell first, with the intention to expand it.
  • In addition to training, a parent focus group consisting of five Mercer County mothers met with staff earlier this month to refine the program and discuss ways the hospital could better deliver care to children with autism.
  • Toys, blankets and other objects of different textures will be located in the nurses’ stations in sensory boxes with drawers labeled “soft,” “squishy,” “hard,” “noisy” and “shiny,” depending on a patients’ preferences.
  • One mother said she was willing to travel more than an hour to a hospital where her child with autism was treated special, Keller recalled. “I was not aware how difficult it was for them to find a coordinated response for their child’s care needs,” said Dr. William Dalsey, chair of the department of emergency medicine at Capital Health. “Many autistic children have other medical problems and they have a very difficult time finding a specialist.”
  • Sometimes patients with autism are nonverbal or minimally verbal, making it difficult for staff to administer treatment, Goldfarb said.
  • “They have a lot of symptoms that will make the testing in the ER difficult. They are sensitive and don’t like to be touched,” she said.
  • Pediatric emergency nurses will also use iPads with apps designed to help staff communicate with patients with autism and those who are verbally impaired. The technology helps medical providers learn why the patient arrived, their pain levels and communication preferences.
  • “We’ve got all these tricks up our sleeves, but it’s not so much about the hardware or software,” Kassutto said. “It’s really, in my mind, about working with parents and working with the kids and really listening.”

Seriously.  Can I get an AMEN or 27 for this?

Seriously.  Can we start a ‘Puzzle Certified’ program?

Tell me…would you drive out of your way if you knew the medical staff understood spectrum differences and difficulties?


3 thoughts on “Day #214 – Puzzle Certified

  1. Pingback: Day #327 – Indexing | 366 Days of Autism

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s