Visiting a doctor can become a real challenge for regular kids and even some adults, especially if we speak about visiting a dentist! And for sure, it’s a very stressful event for those children with autism or other related disorders. Parents and caregivers need to calm down their little patient before the visit to the doctor and have everything under control during the visit and procedures. You can avoid all the unpleasant moments, anxiety and stress if you carefully plan everything before hand.
We found Dr. Kristin Sohl’s suggestions very helpful and would like to share them with our readers. First of all, Dr. Sohl is a pediatrician who specializes with autism and other developmental disorders. She is the Principal Investigator for the Autism Treatment Network, Director of ECHO Autism and the former Medical Director of the MU Thompson Center for Autism Research and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Dr. Sohl suggests that parents and caregivers “call ahead to the provider’s office to discuss individual accommodations that the patient might need during the visit, such as a comfort item or a distraction toy. They should also let the office staff know if there have been prior negative experiences – or successful ones – so the office can provide a supportive environment and avoid triggering anxiety in the patient.”
As a parent or caregiver, you need to discuss this visit with your child and talk about every step that is going to be taken during the appointment. You might even go to the doctor’s office a day or two prior to your scheduled visit in order to help your child accommodate to the new environment. Doctors need to communicate with autistic patients simply, without using different literal meanings, idioms or complicated phrases. “Providers should explain what they’re doing before they do it to reduce anxiety and encourage the patient’s understanding of the procedures.” Dr. Sohl says. Using awards and reinforcements can help you to move smoothly through the routine procedures such as blood tests or vital checks. It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan to determine when to stop the appointment or call for more assistance.
No matter how good or bad your visit to the doctor was, call back to the office afterwards and ask what could be done to improve the next experience or what advice they have for the parents.