If your child has Autism you’ve likely become quite familiar with the physicians in your area- pediatricians, developmental pediatricians, neurologists, etc. Hopefully you’ve found doctors you are comfortable with and whose advice you trust. Though your doctor may be the expert in her field, you are the expert on your child and it is important you share some information with the doctors, nurses, and staff working with your child.
Visit the doctor’s office without your child prior to your appointment. Check out the toys and books in the waiting room (Anything your little one may want to hoard?); take a look in the bathroom (Is there an automatic hand dryer or automatic flush system that bothers so many children on the spectrum?); and of course, say hello to the nurses (Briefly introduce yourself so you have a familiar face next time you’re there). Knowing as much about the people and the facility as possible will help you generate strategies and supports to make your child’s visit go smoothly.
If you are working on increasing the time your child can wait appropriately, share this information with the receptionist. Maybe you need to walk in the hallways and she can call your cell phone when the doctor is ready for you. Be honest about your child’s challenges so you get your appointment started on the right foot.
Your child may have sensitivity to lights, sounds, and textures so inform the doctor and nurses of any issues you foresee. Think about Band-Aids, cotton swabs, or tongue depressors that your child may not want to touch. Think about the volume of music in the office. Think about the bright, fluorescent lights. Explain your child’s needs and ask if they could lower the music while you’re there or turn on just one light in the examination room. Simple modifications go a long way.
Who’s the boss?
If your child needs to have blood drawn, a strep throat culture taken, or any other procedure that may cause discomfort or pain, be clear with your doctor about who should talk to your child. If the doctor, nurse, and you are all trying to talk with your child while he is frightened, he will miss the message and all that language will probably escalate his behavior. If you’re in the lead, ask your doctor what steps he is going to take so you can prepare your child. You may need to bring pictures or a written schedule to help your child understand what’s happening. One person should be guiding your child through the process then everyone can praise him when he’s done!
Written by Jennifer Cerbasi, a special education teacher at a public school in New Jersey and owner of The Learning Link, LLC. Exclusive to AskDrManny.com.