Being the parent of an autistic child can throw up particular problems, especially when it comes to appointments like the doctor or the dentist. When there are clinical procedures that need to be done, it’s important to prepare them for the visit, and make sure that they are complying to the best of their ability when they are there. So what does it take to make a smoother visit when your child has to go to the doctor or dentist?
Enquire How You Can Help
If your child is more comfortable with you than a doctor or dentist, ask how you can help with procedures. While an appointment like the dentist can be particularly traumatizing, and you are not in the position to fix clear braces or conduct any detailed examination, it is crucial to make the process easier by helping as much as possible. You know your child better than anyone, so if there are aspects of the appointment that will make for a smoother visit, for example, if your child prefers to stand rather than sit, if these things are possible, this will make the process easier.
The Importance of Distraction
If your child has favorite toys or items that bring comfort, make sure that you bring these along for the visit, as these can be a very useful tactic for distraction. Another approach that could help would be guided imagery or visualization. This all depends on your child’s comprehension, but if you can encourage them to close their eyes and picture a safe place, and imagine the sights, sounds, and smells, this will help when they sit in the doctor’s office or dentist’s chair.
Learning the Layout of the Location
Familiarity is crucial for children with autism, and if you can get a feeling for the layout of the place, the procedures, and anything else that will include your child, this will help you build up an action plan to reduce any surprises. You could have a practice visit with your child, so you can spend a bit of time in the waiting room, and potentially step into the doctor’s office or exam room.
The important thing to remember at this point is to make the visit enjoyable and make sure to reward your child after the visit.
However, if they are particularly fearful, you’ve got to break it down and take it one small step at a time. If, for example, they don’t want to enter the front door, you can take it back a couple of steps by just sitting in the car before taking one small step outwards and you can gradually build upon this. Always make sure that you reward and praise each success. This will go a long way to keep them calm and reinforce the positive notions of the appointment. You can also go one step further and incorporate role-play or play-acting to help your child become more comfortable with the process.
It is not easy, and it can bring about a lot of stress, but we must remember that we have to be as positive as possible in the process.
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