Say “Ahhh”: The Dreaded Dentist Visit

‘How can I prepare my child for a dentist or doctor’s visit?’ “Here are some practical actions from the Autism Treatment Center of America® using some of The Son-Rise Program® Principles you can take to support your child, in what parents typically report as being a nightmare-type situation for their children on the autism spectrum:

• “Talk to the staff in the doctor/dentist’s office and ask them if your child could have the first appointment of the day; that way, when you go in, there aren’t many people in the waiting room, and you can be seen right away.

• “Find a practice that is super child friendly and understands how to engage with a child on the autism spectrum. Their attitude will make the biggest difference in your child’s response to them. • “Explain to the staff that your child has autism and ask them to express to your child what they will do and give your child time to process and become familiar with them. “For example, the nurse could say: ‘We are going to take our time, and when you are ready, I will place the stethoscope on your body to listen to your heart to make sure your body is doing what’s supposed to do. You can hold the end of the stethoscope for me if you prefer… It’s a little cold and it might tickle you…’

• “Practice at home a few weeks in advance before the appointment. Create games where your child can be the pretend doctor or the dentist, and you are the patient. They can look into your mouth and clean your teeth, listen to your heartbeat, and check your vitals…. Use some puppets, stuffed animals, and dolls for role-playing too. Make the whole experience very fun and playful for your child. Use props similar to the ones used in the real office.

• “Explain, explain, explain… Let your child know how this appointment will benefit and help them! Let them know how long it will take and exactly what they will do. Let them know the staff wants to help him/her and that they are caring people.

• “If this is a very big challenge for your child – you might want to consider taking some pictures of different important parts and people in the doctor’s office before your child’s visit. Create a fun book for your child with those pictures, and a story that explains step-by-step what they can expect. At the end of the day, the more prepared that your child is, the easier it will be for them to navigate this experience, and it will make it easier for everyone else involved too.😊”

Camila Titone, Senior Son-Rise Program Teacher

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