Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Bonfire of Love: How One Family, through Faith and Persistence, Found a Solution to Their Son's Drooling Problem

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Bonfire of Love: How One Family, through Faith and Persistence, Found a Solution to Their Son's Drooling Problem

Article excerpt

How one family, through faith and persistence, found a solution to their son's drooling problem.

My adorable son Austin, 14, has an unfortunate problem: drooling. This can be a "social bummer" that words cannot begin to express. I do not understand why people just will not look past a little drool. Well, okay, maybe a lot of drool. Maybe even sometimes it hung from his lower lip like a long spider web. During the winter, we had seen this area freeze! Not a pleasant situation. This has been a difficult obstacle to overcome for Austin.

Austin has cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder (controlled with medication), and bilateral optic atrophy which causes a visual impairment. The challenges that accompany these disorders are many. We had been told by professionals: "Your child needs to use a wheelchair to get around; "Your child is not going to be able to: read normal size print, drive a car, develop at the same rate as his peers," etc. In time, we learned to deal with all of that. Austin is fortunate in many ways because the other children seemed to be able to deal with all that stuff, too--everything but the drool.

No easy way

We always tried to teach Austin to be aware of his body and its functions. Besides reminding him to swallow and to wipe his chin, occasionally we would set up a mirror at the table so he could practice by monitoring himself while eating. Austin also wore colorful wristbands made of terry cloth that could serve as a visual reminder and that he could also use to wipe his mouth if he didn't have a napkin nearby. I also decided to buy colored bandannas for him to wear around his neck that would coordinate with all his clothes, thinking that this might help protect the clothes and hide any staining. My husband and I became very selective when purchasing clothes for Austin. We would give it the "drool test." By hiding behind a rack of clothes in the store, using a spray bottle from my purse, we would add a few drops of moisture to the garment; and quickly check to see how the garment might look after being worn by Austin.

White and black, thin cotton always worked best. Still, Austin was asked a million times a day to swallow. "Wipe your chin Austin!" "Austin you're drooling ... gross!" His friends at school took it upon themselves to be the drool cops. Some would go as far as to wipe his chin for him.

Others just exclaimed their displeasure at his seeming lack of concern. The color coordinated bandannas, even the designer ones, did not seem to make a difference.

I became very bitter. The younger children seemed to be more accepting of Austin's problem. I knew as he got older and moved up in school, this would become more of a social barrier than it had been at, a younger age.

Finding a solution became my mission. A journey, not only in the physical sense but a spiritual quest as well. I prayed. I read. I took many long walks in the pasture. I attempted to "make a deal" with God. I had trusted Him with so many other aspects of my life, but not this. I prayed, "Lord, this is a mountain that I cannot move. Please help!" Soon, He did just that.

A new horizon

When our family moved to another city in the summer of 1996, it would be a chance for a new beginning. Austin would be attending a new school and I would have the opportunity to find a new team of doctors, and perhaps find some fresh ideas in the new surroundings.

We were referred to the Scottish Rite hospital in Dallas. We made an appointment with a neurologist. "What can we do about the drooling?" I asked. The doctor that we saw seemed to have a lot of experience with pre-adolescent children with cerebral palsy.

He seemed to appreciate our concerns. After the usual barrage of questions and answers, we were handed a prescription. We were assured that this may help with the drooling and we were sent on our way. I was so grateful and gave thanks to God. …

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