Preparing a child with autism for a medical visit
Medical and dental visits are a significant source of stress to many people, including most children on the autism spectrum. Anxiety about the visit may lead to a variety of disruptive behaviors that can interfere with the care the child needs to receive. Stacey Cobb, MD, shared these five tips to help you prepare a child with autism for a successful visit.
- Talk about the appointment in advance. Many kids with autism like to know about changes to their normal routine in advance. This can happen the day or night before the appointment, or even the morning of the appointment.
- Visit the office before the day of the appointment. It can be helpful for the child to be familiar with the office and staff prior to receiving care. By experiencing the new location first, it may ease one of the anxieties related to the visit.
- Share your child’s diagnosis. Remind the clinic staff that your child has autism, as not all staff will know your child’s diagnosis.
- Use visual supports. Small pictures depicting each step of the appointment can be a useful way to show children what is coming next and when the visit will be over. This is especially helpful for children with communication difficulties.
- Remember to reflect. After the visit, make a few positive comments about the appointment, such as, “Your doctor was so happy to see you.”
Eliminating any unknowns and over communicating with an autistic child is a great step toward a successful medical visit. While these types of visits can be challenging, they aren’t anything that can’t run smoothly with a little extra planning, preparation and practice until you figure out exactly what works best for you and your child.
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