Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sometimes, Surprisingly, It's Easy

Jonah has been taking medication to control his aggressive tantrums for the greater part of his life. This means that, twice a day, I would use a mortar and pestle to crush his pills, then mix the powder into some peanut butter, then try to scrape every last bit of peanut butter on to a slice of bread, which was the only way we could get the meds into him.

Not only is this an imperfect system, but as you can imagine, after going through this tedious process about five thousand times, it gets old.

When Jonah was at Kennedy Krieger, I asked them many times to teach him how to swallow pills. I knew there were protocols specifically designed to target this behavior - I believe most of them start with very small edibles, like tic-tacs, but I had no idea how they taught the kids not to chew the candies. The behavior team agreed it would be great if Jonah could swallow pills, but never had the time to go through the protocol, which I understand can take a long time. So at our last IEP meeting, I asked Jonah's teachers if they could do a pill swallowing protocol at school. They also agreed it was a great idea, and said they would look into it, but I haven't heard anything about it since.

Meanwhile, I crushed the pills, and mixed the peanut butter, and scraped the sides of the dish every morning and every night. I told myself that the amount left in the ramikin was negligible, even though Jonah's lithium levels dropped to barely therapeutic levels.

Then, a couple of days ago, something amazing happened. I gave Jonah a melatonin lozenge - which he gets every night to help him sleep - and instead of chewing it like he's supposed to and has been doing, he shoved it to the back of his throat and swallowed it whole.

"Wait, Jonah!" I said. "You need to chew that one - "

At that moment, the proverbial light bulb went on over my head. If Jonah could swallow the lozenge whole, surely he could swallow the lithium pills whole.

So, the next day, I tried it. At first, Jonah did try to chew the pills, but when I prompted him to push it to the back of his throat, he did it - and didn't even want any water to wash it down.

And that was that. All the years of crushing, mixing and scraping were behind us in a virtual instant. No long, frustrating pill swallowing protocol, no tic-tacs, no fights.

I just can't help seeing a lesson in all this. I can get overwhelmed sometimes, because so many things with Jonah are a struggle. But just like any other kid, he can surprise me. And who knows what other surprises are in store, how many other pieces will effortlessly fall into place?

Maybe it's just lingering optimism from the success with the pills, but I can't help but think there will be many others.

1 comment:

dplummer85 said...

I am so proud of Jonah. I remember the peanut butter sandwichs, and having the nurses sneak in and pretend that it was just an ordinary snack. He seems to have come a long way, and I couldn't be happier. Good luck! And keep up the good work!
By the way, I worked with Jonah for about 7 months of his stay, for about 95% of the shifts. I miss him terribly.