Alex got an ingrown toenail — we don’t have any idea, either — and the doctor prescribed orange liquid antibiotic. It was thick, and Jill said it tasted like a Creamcicle. (Some parents make a practice of tasting everything that goes into their kids’ mouths. I’m afraid I stopped at Pediasure.) Alex got an ingrown toenail — we don’t have any idea, either — and the doctor prescribed orange liquid antibiotic. It was thick, and Jill said it tasted like a Creamcicle. (Some parents make a practice of tasting everything that goes into their kids’ mouths. I’m afraid I stopped at Pediasure.)
We started what promised to be another endless 10-day dosage by giving him the stuff in the mornings, and just before he brushed his teeth at night, half a teaspoon measured out into a little metal cup (spoons and Alex and medicine is a combination that’s a ways off). We kicked off by giving it to him in the bathtub, having had a lot of experience trying to get liquid medicine into Alex and a nearly equal amount of experience cleaning it up afterward. To liquid medicines Alex tends to have the same reaction as to exotic foods such as mashed potatoes: a flailing stiff-arm with palm out and angry, a tornado-twisting head and explanations of “NO NO NO!”. Perhaps he does it test the power of our Shout to get out the drizzles of grape purple and cherry red down the front of his T shirt.
Our bathtub worked with the orange stuff, however, smoothly enough to soon warrant moving Alex to my knee as I sat on the bathroom’s most convenient seat. Just so he knew what I was sitting there for: “Alex, time for medicine.”
I’d set him down and show him the metal cup, hoping he’d take it, theory being that maybe control of the situation would get him to lower his hands. His hands were clamped like cement over his lips.
“C’mon, Alex, this tastes good.”
Taste schmaste. I get the feeling he’s going through all this merely for principle, giggling and wiggling and using his hands the way a hockey goalie uses his mask. I hold Alex’s arms down with one hand and, wrapping my fingers around his forehead, tip his face back. Jill leans in and squeezes his cheeks to make his lips form a little “O,” and she holds the cup to his mouth. First few times we try this, a trickle of the stuff oozes out around his lips, and he coughs once or twice.
“The doctor said it doesn’t matter if he gets every bit of a dose,” says Jill. “I liked that doctor.”
Alex has a “mouth” thing. For worrisome months he’d eat nothing unless it crunched. Then he accepted chicken nuggets, then a long while later pizza cheese, and now he’s even known to knock down an occasional yogurt. I think his mouth thing has something to do with the medicine aversion, and doctors have been sending medicines Alex’s way for most of his life. First the stuff flowed into him in tubes. A few times while he was in pre-school, we had to squirt medicine into his mouth with a syringe – an efficient enough process, but it reminded me of medicating a cat. Pills were a joke: We could get the first one down Alex, maybe a second. By the third he’d start pinwheeling when he spied the prescription bottle halfway across the room. For months now, we’ve lived with spoons and metal cubs, and stains on his T shirts.
Then, slowly with this Creamcicle stuff, Alex’s resistance melts. It continues to take both me and Jill; he still covers his mouth with his hands. But it’s as much to stifle uncontrolled giggles as it is to shield himself from some oral Creamcicle assault. We still have to hold his hands down; but when the metal cup touches his lips, he actually seems to begin to sip.
“High five on the medicine!” we cry, and he slaps our palms.
The most severe test comes one evening when I’m alone with the boys. Alex had a fit during dinner over touching the kitchen cabinet lights – I don’t have any idea, either – and by the time toothbrushing came around, I was in no mood.
“Alex, put your hands down!” I commanded. He did. They started to come up again as the cup neared his mouth. “Put your hands down and drink this!” I gave him a taste, then waited. Then he took the cup, and drank.
High five. “This is a breakthrough!” exclaimed Jill. “I’m gonna buy him a Creamcicle!”
Jeff Stimpson, 49, is a native of Bangor, Maine, and lives in New York with his wife Jill and two sons. He is the author of Alex: The Fathering of a Preemie and Alex the Boy: Episodes From a Family’s Life With Autism (both available on Amazon). He maintains a blog about his family at http://jeffslife.tripod.com/alextheboy, and is a frequent contributor to various sites and publications on special-needs parenting, such as Autism-Asperger’s Digest, Autism Spectrum News, and The Autism Society news blog.Tweet