My 8-year-old son had an eye doctor's appointment today. He wears glasses, and he has not been able to see as well as he should, so I took him in to get a new prescription for some new glasses.
We saw a new doctor that we hadn't seen before. He seemed nice enough, but when the doctor put that refractor machine over M's face (the one with all the lenses that looks like a pair of space-aged binoculars), things got a bit wonky.
In case you're new here, M has mild Asperger's Syndrome as well as some sensory processing issues. He is a sensory seeker, meaning he is constantly feeling, touching, tasting, and squirming. He can't help himself. It's a compulsion for him to touch things. So when the doctor pushed that giant metal mask up against his face, his first instinct was to bring his wiggly fingers up for a quick touchy-feely.
The doctor told him a couple of times not to touch, but M just couldn't help himself. (When I asked him about it later, he told me he didn't even know he was touching it.) So finally the doctor had enough. He brought out the big guns: a booming voice that actually scared both M and me.
"I do NOT want you to touch this," he said with such authority that my insides went cold. "It is very expensive to have this equipment cleaned, so you will NOT touch it again."
M just said very quietly, "OK," and he put his hands under his legs so that he wouldn't forget.
After that, the doctor became quite friendly. He immediately changed the tone of his voice, and he was both polite and encouraging throughout the rest of the exam. I decided it was best to keep my mouth shut at the time, but now I'm wondering if I should have said something to the doc.
When we left the office, I asked M if the doctor had scared him or hurt his feelings, and he said no. Apparently, the incident didn't phase him at all. It did, however, phase me.
I can't stop thinking about it: Should I have said something to the doctor? Should I have stuck up for M and told the doc not to yell at my child? Should I have explained that M has sensory issues and can't help having feely fingers?
Or did the doc do the right thing? M should have listened and not touched the equipment. But when I asked him about it later, he said he didn't even remember doing it. What's the right course of action here?
I went to bat for M this summer when his principal put him in the 3rd grade class with the meanest teacher in the school. I had heard that a child actually wet her pants in this teacher's class because she was afraid to ask to use the bathroom. I told the principal that we don't yell at our kids at home, and we will not tolerate our child being yelled at in school. I won that battle, and M now has the kindest, sweetest teacher I could ask for.
Should I have gone to bat for him today?
This issue concerns me on several levels. On one hand, M's personality (and anyone with an Aspie would probably agree) makes him a bit annoying sometimes. He tends to stand too close, talk too loud, and wiggle too much. It gets on people's nerves.
On the other hand, his personality also makes him oblivious to the fact that he annoys people! He has no idea why his grandmother doesn't want him to "eat" her hair or why his friends back away when he starts touching their faces. And today, he didn't bat an eyelash when the doctor raised his voice and reprimanded in a very firm manner. So in a way, it's a blessing that he is so unaware of how others view him.
I guess I did the right thing by keeping my mouth shut at the doctor's office. As long as it didn't upset, M, I'm OK with it. I just don't want to find out that a teacher has been yelling at him or another student has been bullying him, and he doesn't even realize it. I suppose that's a bridge we will cross when we come to it.
It's a tricky business to stick up for your kids. Mine are getting to the age where they need to start standing up for themselves. I can only hope that when the time comes, M will know what to do.