Make The Doctor’s Visit A Pleasant Experience

Nadia Shanab | autism, general advice, parenting, tips
14 Apr 2015

One of the most common problems parents face on a regular basis is taking their child with autism to the doctor or dentist office.
Even if the environment was friendly and the doctor/dentist and team are patient, children with autism don’t like to be closely approached, or touched, let alone having any intrusion to their body. Taking off clothes to be examined is very annoying (clothes are usulally taken off only to shower, bathe or change, according to your child’s understanding). Briefly, when their personal space is invaded they can become uncooperative and even agressive. Very often times they throw tantrums.
Sensory integration issuses are always in the way. For example, certain smells, the sight of medical/dental instruments, devices, apparatuses,…may appear to be very threatening to their personal peaceful world. For a child with ASD, the doctor’s office is an environment full of uncertainty and consequently an undesirable place to be.

Here are simple tips to help you turn this stressful experience into a pleasant one.

  • Get a toy medical kit, or evern better, let your child pick it; the average price is about twenty dollars.
  • Give your child time and space to become familiar with the kit and explore every single piece by her/himself.
  • When the time is right, show her/him how to use every tool first on yourself, or on a sibling or any other person.
  • Next, try gently to use the tools on her/him and pretend to be a doctor examining a patient.
  • Ask your child to take turn and pretend being a doctor and let her/him examine you or a sibling or any other person.
  • You can also use a doll, stuffed animal, or even your own pet and pretend playing doctor/dentist and patient.
  • Explain what each tool is for.
  • Allow your child an easy access to the toy doctor kit, to let her/him practice freely.
  • When you get friends, neighbors, or relatives visits let them play with your child and pretend being doctors, and have them take turns.
  • It would be very helpful if your child found a playmate to practice with.
  • If possible, it would be more powerful to get a real stetoscope and some real tools to use for practice. Make sure your child is safe and supervised at all times in this case.
  • Give your child a reward at the end of the session/exam/fake doctor’s visit.
  • When you feel that your child has become comfortable playing this game, start calling the doctor in the play/game by its real name.
  • To enrich the experience, you can create the kit from scratch as shown in the video with your child’s help.
  • Besides the toy medical kit, you can read books about doctor’s visits.

The tips above will gradually help you prepare your child to go to the doctor’s office.
nadia shanab

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