A trip to the dentist can be difficult for children with autism. Some children have a hard time with being touched, while others experience sensory overload during a dental examination. With a little bit of planning, you can make a trip to the dentist a less stressful experience for you and your child. Here are a few helpful hints to help make the next appointment go smoothly.
Talk to Your Dentist Ahead of Time
Your dentist needs to be prepared just as much as you and your child do. Talk to the dentist about your child's sensory issues and any possible triggers. It may be possible to limit the number of people in the exam room, lower the lights, or turn off any music that might interfere with your child's visit. Many family dentists have plans in place for people with autism, so be sure to check before your visit.
Use Social Stories
Social stories are essentially storyboards that map out everything that will happen at the dental appointment. You can create these on your own, or you can ask your child's special education teacher for advice. A social story explains every step of the visit, from leaving your house to getting a teeth cleaning. This allows your child to visualize the entire experience beforehand so there are no surprises.
Go Early in the Day
Walking into a waiting room full of people might cause your child some anxiety. Talk to the appointment scheduler to see if you can have the first appointment of the day. The office will be quiet, and there will be fewer people in the waiting room. If possible, try to avoid weekend appointments, as the family dentist may have more patients on those days.
Control Sensory Overload
You know what your child's sensory issues are, so consider ways to reduce overload during the visit. Ear plugs or an eye mask might be helpful during the examination. Weighted blankets help many kids with autism to feel calm and safe in new surroundings. If your child responds well to visual stimuli, ask if you can bring a tablet computer to the appointment. Watching cartoons or favorite movies might keep your little one's mind focused during the examination.
No two children with autism are exactly the same, so be sure to come up with a plan that works specifically for your child. Take sensory issues and triggers into account as you plan, and be sure to talk to your child's teacher or pediatrician for more pointers on how to make the trip to the family dentist a pleasant one.