Autism Awareness Month: Helpful Tips for Dental visits with children on the Autism Spectrum.

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Autism Awareness Month: Helpful Tips for Dental visits with children on the Autism Spectrum.

by Susanne Ellis, on 8th April 2014 | 0 comments

Autism Awareness Month: Helpful Tips for Dental visits with children on the Autism Spectrum.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and here are some techniques parents can employ in an effort to make visiting the dentist a positive experience for children with autism. Preparation, understanding sensory issues and communication are key to helping make the experience a comfortable one, and here are some tips you can use when planning your child’s visit.

Preparation

Parent involvement is key when making the visit a successful one for your child. When you first set up your appointment, it is important to call us first to discuss your child’s needs. If it is your child’s first visit to the dentist you may like to take them to meet the dentist and other staff prior to any treatment, you can also show them the equipment which the dentist will use and how it works.

Try to ensure that the appointment is at a good time of day for your child, and consider maybe even booking a double time slot. This reduces the chance of the dentist running late and provides enough time not to feel rushed.

Help your child become more familiar with daily tooth brushing, you can use their toothbrush or a plastic tooth mirror (available at local pharmacies) to get your child used to letting you put it in their mouth so it won’t seem as strange during their visit.

Creating and reading a “social story” about going to the dentist with your child can also help prepare them for the visit and can take uncertainty about what will happen. Highlight things your child might be concerned about in the story. Using photos like these might help give your child a visual that will help prepare them for the visit.

Understanding Sensory Issues

There are many potential sensory challenges at a dentist’s office – tastes, smells, textures, sounds, lights and proprioceptive and more. Knowing ahead of time what areas your child tends to be sensitive in will help you know what coping strategies to try. Be sure to share these coping strategies with the dental staff before the visit. Collaboration and teamwork are essential for a successful trip to the dentist.

Communication

Communication is very important in helping a child feel comfortable. Tell/Show/Do is a technique we employ to show our patients what we are going to do. First, we Tell the child what we are going to do, then Show them the tool or action we are going to use (letting the child touch the tool, if possible). Then, Do happens only after we have done done the other two. This verbal preparation and demonstration will help eliminate some uncertainty for your child and put them more at ease.

Again, parental involvement and communication is key. Preparing both your child and our clinical and support staff for the visit ahead of time can go a long way in making the visit a successful one.

By Dr Aoife O’ Donoghue

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