One of our biggest struggles has been with learning to take pills.  Children like mine are branded “picky eaters” because of their oral motor and sensory issues. I have never lost hope that someday he would finally be able to learn to take pills. Powders, chewables and liquid supplements are more expensive, more work to give and half the time they still won’t take it. t.

My child entered the autism epidemic at a time when no therapy was covered by insurance. We had few resources when he was young to address feeding issue, sensory issues….anything really.  It wasn’t like today where children go right into therapy once diagnosed. It’s only now as a teenager we finally have access to some of these things in our area.

It took some paperwork and a referral but we finally got into see a practitioner whose primary focus is teaching children to swallow pills. I was skeptical but I also knew everything we had tried just didn’t work. We also needed to know if there was an oral motor issue like apraxia which would mean he couldn’t physically swallow them.

I was excited at the hope but as I gently broke the news to my son he had that “not more doctors” look in his eyes. He said “What kind of doctor is it that I have to see now?”  This is the reality for a lot of our kids. Another doctor, another therapy, another supplement, another diet.

In my quick attempt to explain this one and not make it sound horrible, I told him it was “a swallowing doctor”. Perhaps not the best choice of words but sometimes you just improv in real life and I know how he tends to over react to the concept of seeing anyone with a “doctor” title.

If you could have seen the look on his face. He said “What????“.

I clarified further that it was a person whose job was just teaching kids to take pills. He was extremely skeptical and felt there was no way he could learn this.  Past attempts were just disastrous.

We discussed this off and on in the coming days to try to prepare him to have an open mind and see what the doctor had to say. Never underestimate what you tell a kid because when he met the doctor, she asked him how he felt about the idea of learning to take pills.

He said “I was told to keep an open mind, but my mind is not open”. Ha!, Yep they love to embarrass you don’t they? Plus I’m not sure he really understands what the term “open mind” means.

What I learned from this doctor is so contrary to the stuff you read online about teaching kids to take pills. It’s completely off base for kids with oral motor/reflex issues.  It seems like everyone has some idea of how to do this, sprays, special spout cups, tiny breath mints…most of this stuff just doesn’t work.

All these failed attempts just lead a child to have even less confidence if not outright  anxiety about trying again.

So where has therapy with this doctor led? In just three 20 minute appointments, my son has learned to swallow pills. We practiced at home every day with the assigned item and progressed through from nonpareils to capsules in 3 weeks.

I’ve congratulated him over and over again for doing it. He calmly and plain faced says  “What’s the big deal Mom?”.

The big deal? To me it’s huge. It’s a gain. A milestone a child usually reaches at age 4 that it didn’t seem likely he could ever do.

To me it’s everything.

 

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