One thing about autism is how children can surprise parents with their ability to cope in stressful situations. This isn’t to say that this is always the case, it’s just that sometimes those situations which we presume will go badly, actually go really well. The other week was one such experience when The Boy had his MRI scan..
Earlier in the week, Eldest Boy and his girlfriend sent ‘Brian’ via owl post to keep The Boy company during his scan which was so thoughtful. The school also did their bit and allowed him to take the class mascot, ‘Hooty’ to hospital with him for morale.
The day started well. The Boy was in a good mood and cooperative which is a plus because a cooperative child always makes life a bit easier. Armed with our knowledge of what was to come we made our way to the children’s ward in one of the local hospitals.
Before the scan, The Boy spent half an hour with a play-worker who took him through what would happen in a child-friendly manner using pictures and toys specially designed for the MRI scan.
Having the play-worker there really helped to take the pressure of us. The Boy was interested in the toys, especially a mini MRI room that looked exactly how it does in real life!
Spending time in the play-room made me realise just how important play is when caring for children in hospitals. Hospitals can be frightening places for any child – let alone one who is autistic – but a friendly face and a bit of distraction goes a long way to allay some of those fears that come with unfamiliar environments.
Next it was time to go to go for the scan. The play-worker came with us and chatted away to The Boy throughout the MASSIVELY long walk to the MRI department. This was the hardest part of the day as he had to wait for an hour for his turn. The lady in front of him took a lot longer than normal. It wasn’t ideal for us but it was beyond our control so we just had to do our best to keep him distracted. He was relatively OK while there was only one other person waiting but meltdown threatened when five people came in at once and he soon began rolling about on the floor making his ‘noises’ and shouting, ‘I’M BOOOORRRRED!’ at the top of his voice. Thankfully we only had to wait ten more minutes before he was called in.
The play-worker and I went in with him. Again, The Boy flabergahsted me with how well he tolerated the situation. He dived on the bed making the technician laugh out loud. He likes hospital beds because they move up and down. When the technician pressed the button to raise the bed up, The Boy squealed in delight like it was the best thing ever! His head was secured and he was given a pair of headphones with a choice of some music to listen to. We were also given ear defenders to deafen the noise from the machine. There was a mirror on The Boy’s head ‘contraption’ so that he could see us and once he was settled – the adventure began.
I’ve had an MRI scan before but, as I said, I don’t remember it cus I was completely off my face on morphine so this was relatively a new experience for me too. People have said it’s loud and it was incredibly loud but I also thought it was a bit like listening to experimental music – sort of Kraftwerk meets Slipknot? Or maybe that’s just me…
We stood either side of the bed and stroked The Boy’s legs. He gave us a double thumbs up so I knew he was OK. Sometimes he moved his head about so I gave him my mummy frown and wagged my finger. When he kept still, I smiled and stuck my thumb up. He called out, ‘I LOVE YOU MUMMY!’ and in that moment I don’t think it was possible to love him anymore that I already did..
Twenty minutes later it was all over.
Once he was free of all the MRI regalia I told him how amazingly well he’d done and he said very matter-of-factly, ‘ Yeah, I pretended I was a spaceman’.
My little boy, who only this morning had had a complete meltdown over getting dressed for school, took this major experience and made it work for him. This is the wonderment of autism, folks.
The play-worker walked us back to the children’s ward and then she went off to make another child’s day a little bit brighter. It must be an incredibly rewarding job and I know ours was definitely less stressful because of her support.
Our trip ended in the hospital cafe with a well earned hot chocolate and cake. I looked around me and reminded myself that hospitals may well be full of people who are really ill but it’s not all about sickness and death. The children’s ward is a happy place – a positive place. It’s just my ingrained memories of old fashioned hospitals that cloud my perception. I know that should The Boy ever need another scan he won’t be afraid because he‘s done it and it was a positive experience.
I couldn’t be prouder of my little spaceman.