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Terri Mauro

Swine Flu Precautions vs. Finger-Sucking Compulsions

By April 29, 2009

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My kids brought the Swine Flu Letter home from school yesterday. It mentions the current progress of this "quickly unfolding situation" and shares some "everyday actions" that can help us avoid the disease, including the always-good advice of "Try to avoid close contact with sick people." The recommendations that stopped me cold, though, were these: "Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze" and "Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth." If that's the only way we're going to stay healthy, then we may as well stock up on Tamiflu now. ’Cause touching nose or mouth? Two of my son's favorite things. And covering sneezes and coughs with a tissue? So very much not.

Just about everybody who has ever seen my son with his fingers in his mouth has told him he'll get sick doing that, but he has not stopped -- nor gotten particularly sick, come to think of it. Constant reminders to keep the fingers out of the nose and the tissue at the ready have similarly not adjusted this behavior. I'm reminded of the Weekday Reflection quote from earlier this week that "Anyone who says, 'It's as easy as taking candy away from a baby,' is unlikely to have ever actually tried to take candy away from a baby." Ditto compulsive behaviors.

Like any parent, I worry about my kids getting sick. But as the parent of a child with neurological quirks, I worry too that pandemic panic will cause people to look at my finger-sucking, nose-wiping, touchy-feely guy and shout "Unclean! Unclean!" Perhaps I should just issue hand-sanitizer and face-masks to everyone in his vicinity. Or see about getting online instruction for these last couple months of school.

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May 1, 2009 at 2:58 am
(1) Seely says:

I can relate. My child did not have a problem putting his fingers in his eyes/nose, but the mouth – OY! One thing that I think has helped keep him well is more frequent toothbrushing. Yes, that also takes supervision, but at least it can be done (unlike trying to monitor hands-in-mouth all the time). “Your Toothbrush and Respiratory Infections”. Good luck!

May 5, 2009 at 8:41 pm
(2) Pamela Wilson says:

The New York Times had an article on the effects of a school closure, PS 177 in Queens has had on families of some children with autism and other special needs ~

Big City – Parents of Special-Needs Children Cope with Flu Outbreak
by Susan Dominus

“…Like many at the school, which serves nearly 500 special-needs students ages 5 to 21, John is autistic, and routine is paramount in his life.”

Also, in the School Nurses/School Psychologists/PTA PDF about talking to children about the Swine Flu virus, there’s a welcome mention about students treating one another with respect and not assuming another student has or does not have the flu – probably to protect mainstream brown-eyed or Spanish-speaking classmates from bullying or teasing, or to remind adults that many Anglo families vacation in Mexico ~ but providing an opportunity for a reminder to include, support and protect children with disabilities.

Judging by how hyper-alert I have been when first a little baby at a luau and then a darling young girl who was a fellow grocery shopper coughed in public in my presence, all I can hope is that little ones with chronic runny noses during the Spring (like my son with Down syndrome when he was a sprout) are able to stay off the radar of other moms.

It’s hard to let my son with Type One diabetes go out in the world while this flu is breaking out – and he rides public transportation to and from his adult day health program. Argh!

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