I am often very pleasantly suprised about how quickly kids adapt to BC’s disability. They generally seem to find it very easy to get used to him getting about in his walker (that’s just what he does). Same goes for his limited speech and his communication device – although this always seems to require a little more explanation – which is fair enough. Kids are curious after all.
However, one thing that other kids don’t seem to adapt well to his dribbling/drooling. Babies dribble. Dribbling is ‘yukky’. I’ve heard kids say so themselves.
BC had much better saliva control 6 months ago than today. The fact that he has less control now is actually because he’s doing so much more talking now. He needs to concentrate an awful lot on making any sounds with his mouth. And if he’s busy concentrating on forming consonant and vowel sounds to make words, well he doesn’t seem able to concentrate on controlling his saliva as well.
I decided a long time ago he wouldn’t wear bibs to solve the problem. Bibs are for babies. We’ve been trialling him using a ‘mop’ – ie a sweat wrist band that he can use to wipe his own mouth and chin if he feels wet. This works, to some degree, but if he’s at kinder, he’s busy concentrating not only on getting sounds out, but also on drawing, painting, dancing or whatever other activity is going on. It’s tough for him to also have to concentrate on controlling his saliva – something that just comes naturally to all his peers.
There is medication that you can take to control the saliva, but I’d really rather not go down that path. On an alternative therapy note, we’ve had some success with improving his saliva control with visits to a rolfer in the past. I think we’re due for another visit.
An added difficulty, and this is thanks to the brain injury that he received, BC doesn’t have a great awareness of when his mouth is closed. If I ask him to close his mouth, it often takes a few minutes for him to get it closed. And usually, for him, this means tucking his bottom lip under his front teeth. Because he can feel that. Our swimming time is helping in this area, because he sure knows if his mouth isn’t closed properly when the water gets in! But it’s a difficult process. Again, it means teaching him something that just comes naturally to other kids (unrelated to this topic, but interesting nonetheless, he also finds it very difficult to close his eyes if I ask him to. It’s not a cognitive issue. He understands what I’m asking him to do, but the connections between the request and the voluntary action are very tricky for him! Thanks again brain injury…).
At the moment, we’re discussing a serious oral motor control sensory program with BC’s speech therapist. It sounds like a pretty full on 6 week program where we basically spend a LOT of time and techniques to remind him of his saliva and help him gain awareness of the saliva in the first place and give him more strategies to manage it. We have done parts of this in the past, including lip and mouth massage both with fingers and with an electric toothbrush. I will let you know how we go, when we do the ‘whole works’ later on.
We’re also going to get him some neckerchiefs which act like a bib, but don’t look babyish. (Photos to come) .
In the meantime, if you’re interested in knowing more about saliva control, medications and other therapies available, this booklet from the RCH in Melbourne is a fantastic online resource.
It seems a real priority for me to help BC with his saliva control. It’s not that I find it a problem myself. I’m used to my dribbly boy. But when I see how other kids react, I just want to cry. I really worry that it will be a real block to kids wanting to get to know him. I don’t know how far we’ll get with the control, but I would just like to do as much as we can, especially before he heads off to school in 18 months time.