Drip Drip Drop
Let’s go ahead and start the New Year with a super awkward conversation, ok? (Happy New Year, by the way)
Let’s talk about drooling.
I’m not a bodily functions kind of person. Liam has already puked at one track meet (it’s a runners’ thing apparently) and he knows if he does it again I will stage whisper in mock horror, “Where is that poor boy’s mother?” and then disappear out the back door. I know my limits.
Sure, drooling isn’t puking but it’s gross just the same.
But here’s what it’s NOT – an indication of someone’s intelligence or abilities.
A person drools because they have difficulty swallowing. That’s it. There are many reasons for this. You’ve probably walked out of a dentist’s office at some point drooling because of a temporary loss of sensation. Perhaps you’ve woken up to drool on your pillow after a nap when your muscles were particularly relaxed.
Aidan drools and puts his hands in his mouth which results in saliva everywhere. He was primarily g-tube fed so all of those sensations and actions related to suck and swallow were never fully developed in him. His muscles are weaker and he has fewer sensory reminders to swallow when saliva starts dripping out of his mouth.
And part of me wants to jump in here and remind you how smart he is; he can drive a power wheelchair; he can use his talker; he can tell you with his body exactly where he wants to go.
But these two facts aren’t related, and yet somehow with first impressions one has come to determine the other.
There was a group of adults with disabilities visiting the zoo today. They seemed to really enjoy it. They were feeding the animals and shopping at the gift store. They weren’t drooling or anything.
Even though these students can’t talk I think we can really engage them in some meaningful art projects. They seem to be really with it. It’s not like they’re drooling or anything.
It’s the kind of old folks home that accepts people who are still really active in life and just need some basic supervision before they just sit around and start drooling.
We’ve decided on several arbitrary indicators of intelligence and ability that we need to throw out the window STAT. Drooling is one. Not talking is another. And anytime we see people using wheelchairs there is the assumption that there is so much more they CAN’T do.
Drooling has become a barrier to presuming competence – the I believe you can do it or learn it attitude that people with disabilities are so often denied.
I’ll admit that I’m especially vigilant about keeping Aidan’s mouth dry because I don’t want him to be perceived as less than. It’s the same reason I make sure he wears shirts with collars and mostly dresses up to go out. He has enough set against him when people are making surface judgements (which we all do). I don’t want to give anyone reason to think he’s not smart or capable. So maybe this makes me part of the problem, this hiding parts of my son. Certainly no one deserves to be slimed because, gross, and germs, and, eeeww, but while I’m saving you from saliva, maybe you could presume competence anyway.
I’ve left this part of the story out of my blog, the part I didn’t want you to see, the part that may appear to go against the CAN DO tone that I’ve set here. Many of you dear readers have watched Aidan’s accomplishments and celebrated with us. My plan was to show you some pictures of Aidan with drool but they get deleted quickly. Here’s what I found in the trash:
Aidan drives and walks. He can learn. He can cop an attitude like a teenager. He can make a trip to Target into a grand adventure with his giggles. He’s smart and funny.
And he drools.