Categories: ASD and DD, Child-focused
- Schedule visits to expose your child to the environment. A lot of medical providers are understanding of the needs of children with developmental disabilities. They will allow parents to bring their child to visit the facility ahead of time.
By Erica Kearney, M.A, BCBA, LABA
Attending doctor and dental appointments can be difficult for any child, including children with autism. As you think about the process and what happens at these appointments, it’s easy to understand why.
As newborns and during early childhood, children attend appointments every few months. A lot that happens at these appointments can be perceived as aversive for any child. Clothing is removed so that he (or she) can be weighed and examined. He is in an unfamiliar place, undressed, and an unknown person in colorful clothing walks in and places him on a cold scale. Then he has to wait in a diaper until another stranger enters the room. This one is in a white jacket and has something hanging around her neck that looks like a snake. It turns out to be just as cold as the scale, and she uses it to touch his chest and back.
During the examination, the doctor also shines a light in his eyes, and looks in his nose and mouth. Then she hits the child’s knee with a hammer, says a few things to the parents, and leaves the room. When the first person, the one in colorful clothing, returns she is smiling and holding something that looks like a pen. The child quickly assesses the situation and it seems okay. Then she pokes him with the “pen” and he immediately feels pain. What just happened? The child is crying and mom and dad hug him and provide comfort, calming him down.
These visits continue and the child begins to remember what happens when they go to this place. Sometimes he gets poked and it hurts, but sometimes he doesn’t. He does know that he will come out with a lollipop. The only other time he goes to this place is usually when he is sick or has to watch his sibling get poked and then cry.
It’s no wonder some kids fear doctor appointments! But there are things that can make the experience better. I am impressed with the techniques used in my pediatrician’s office to help patients have the most enjoyable experience possible. I credit them for some of the suggestions below.
Tips to help make medical appointments easier for all:
Attending medical appointments can be intimidating for children. But some planning and communication with your child’s providers can make a world of difference.
Erica Kearney, M.A., BCBA, LABA, is Executive Director of the May Center School for Children with Autism and Developmental Disabilities in West Springfield, Mass. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May Institute is a nonprofit organization that is a national leader in the field of applied behavior analysis, serving individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, brain injury and neurobehavioral disorders, and other special needs. Founded 65 years ago, we provide a wide range of exceptional educational and rehabilitative services across the lifespan. May Institute operates four schools for children and adolescents with ASD and other developmental disabilities, including one in West Springfield, Mass. For more information, call 800-778-7601.