Would you love for your child’s visit to dentists to be more successful? Regular dental checkups are very important for the health of teeth. Children with autism must get regular dental visits and these visits are often so stressful for both parent and child.
Let’s examine three tips for more successful behavior at the dentist. If all three of these tips are taken, the angst that accompanies dental visits for children with autism will be a thing of the past.
1. Preview the Dental Office Before the Appointment Without the Child
Make at least one trip to the dental office without the child in order to assess the waiting room situation. Is the waiting room child-friendly? Does it have the kind of toys your child likes? If there is any paperwork you can fill out in advance of the visit, do it now. It will be far easier to fill it out a day early. That way, you can focus your attention on your child when you come in for the visit.
2. Obtain the First Early-Morning Appointment of the Day
It is best to schedule the first early morning appointment of the day for any situation that could be potentially difficult for children with autism. There are various reasons for this. First of all, medical offices commonly overbook the dentist, causing half-hour to hour wait times all day long. Children with autism generally do not wait well. Hence, it is best to be seen first. Second, children’s medications are usually fresh in the morning which hopefully will help with their anxiety.
3. Bring a Carefully Packed Bag of Reinforcers
Carry along a tote of things the child finds comforting. This could include a small toys that spin or light up. Maybe a book or a blank pad of drawing paper and pencils or crayons would be good suggestions. Eating is usually prohibited in medical offices and dentists often will be performing a cleaning, so there is not much point to bringing snacks. A musical toy could be useful provided that it is not too loud. Also, if noise is a problem for the child, consider bringing headphones and books on tape. Any quiet activity that is calming will be fine. Also, do not forget “sensory” type items. Examples of this include a small light blanket for comfort or Play-Doh to squeeze for anxiety.
The above are three tips to make trips to the dentist easier for children with autism and their families. It is really the unfamiliarity that makes the first times the hardest. Children with autism will become accustomed to the dentist in time as all children do.