5 Tips to prepare your autistic child for a hospital visit.
Visiting a hospital can be a sensory nightmare for your child: the bright lights, the loud and unusual sounds, and smells. There are a few things that can do to prepare for the upcoming visit.
1. Use a Social Story.
If the hospital visit is a planned appointment, you can prepare your child with visual aids or a Social Story. Made up of pictures and brief descriptions, social stories can help with preparing your child—explaining who and what your child will see on the visit. Social stories explain some of the sounds and smells you and your child may encounter. It can also explain how you will be traveling to the hospital. Along with things like elevators, lifts, or even escalators that may be used on the visit. It can even describe what doctors and nurses may be wearing, such as masks and hospital gowns.
If you are seeing a specialist or a pediatrician you can easily locate a picture of the doctor. Most hospital websites have a list of doctors and their images, if not a quick google search does the trick. This is a great way to leave no surprises for your child.
The NSW Government have some great social stories to down load
2. Role play.
Practicing can be a great way to prepare your child for the upcoming hospital visit. It can even be fun. One of you can play the doctor, and one can play the patient. You can practice with a pretend stethoscope while trying to find a heartbeat. Practice checking each other’s reflexes and practice some of the questions the doctor may ask.
If an x-ray or blood test may be needed you can even practice these and use a social story with pictures of the tests that may be needed on the day.
3. Be honest, don’t hide or embellish things.
Do not underestimate your child. Kids are are intuitive. Do not lie or even bend the truth. It may result in future distrust and stress for future visits. This doesn’t mean you need to go into every detail, just be truthful.
Remember to use age-appropriate language. Explain what will happen, ensuring you remain positive; it is important not to scare your child. It is also essential to be prepared for any questions your child may have.
When explaining how long your child will be at the hospital, do not be vague with terms like “Not long” or “In a minute” Autistic kids can be literal and it is better to be honest as to avoid any misunderstanding. If you are unsure of anything just let them know you will do your best to find out upon your arrival.
4. Take Fidgets, sensory aids and snacks.
Make sure you pack your bag with their favourite fidget toys. Let them choose what they would like to take. Because of your preparation in advance you can avoid the dreaded rush. Hence, reducing any chance of stress and anxiety.
- Pack sensory aids such as noise-cancelling headphones or a weighted toy or lap blanket.
- Bring food and snacks. Locating food and snacks in a hospital can sometimes be troublesome. You may find the cafeteria or café crowded and noisy.
- Remember the ipad or any device that can occupy and calm your child. Most hospitals have free WIFI these days. If not, you can hotspot from your own device.
You might want to plan a special meal after the appointment so your child has something to look forward to afterward. It is not a good idea to use bribes. However, a special treat afterward is always a positive memory for a child to associate with after the hospital visit.
5. Prepare the Doctor and health care team.
Before your visit make sure you communicate your child’s needs and sensory aversions. Things like the use of any communication device. Make sure the doctor understands that your child may need time to respond if using their device. Your child may also have trouble with physical touch, making an examination difficult. If you communicate this before hand it can ensure the Doctor has plenty of time to build trust and repour with your child before the examination.
It may also help to let the health team know of any particular character or movie your child likes. The doctor or clinician can talk about that with your child to make them more comfortable. The more your health care team knows, the better.
Sometimes all you can do is advocate for your child’s needs.
And while these things can ensure a smoother hospital visit, we cannot always predict how our children will react. Because of this it is important is that we remain calm. And realise that any adverse reaction caused by the hospital visit is not our child’s fault. They will be experiencing immense trauma and overwhelm. It is our job to make sure that those people around our child understand that they require patience and support rather than anger and frustration