Appointments: Autistic Children & Teenagers
Why Appointments Are Hard For Autistic Children & Teenagers:
- Many autistic individuals have social and communication difficulties, a preference for routines, and sensory sensitivities.
- This means that appointments with unfamiliar people in unfamiliar, busy or noisy places are often difficult.
- Appointments can be confusing for autistic children. They might not understand why they are there or what’s happening. From this autistic children might feel very anxious and express their anxiety.
- Changes in routine can be difficult for autistic children. For example, an autistic individual may feel upset if you take them to an appointment when they should be at school.
Strategies For Before Appointments:
1. Visit Before The Appointment:
Ask the professional if you can visit briefly before the appointment so your child can see where they are going and meet the professional.
- Another option might be to look at pictures of the venue online or drive past it a couple of times before the appointment to familiarize your child with the venue.
2. Prepare the Professional:
- It’s a good idea to talk to your GP, dentist or hairdresser about your child’s needs before the appointment.
- When you talk to the professional, you can explain your child’s sensory sensitivities, preferences and interests. For example, you might say, ‘It often helps if only one person speaks at a time, slowly and clearly, using simple language in a soft, calm voice’.
3. Choose an Appointment Time:
- If your child finds waiting or busy spaces difficult, try to book the first appointment of the day.
- If your child needs time to settle before the appointment starts, you could ask for a longer appointment. You could also ask for an appointment on a quieter day or time in the week.
4. Watch Someone Else:
- You can help your child understand what’s going to happen by letting them watch someone else first. For example, they could watch a sibling or friend have a haircut.
- You might need to do this several times before your child feels comfortable to stay in the room or get into the hairdresser’s chair.
5. Read About Where You’re Going:
- There are many storybooks and DVDs that can help you talk about going to the GP, dentist and other places.
- For older children, you could look at the hairdresser’s or dentist’s website.
6. Arrange a Home Visit:
- A mobile hairdresser who comes to your home might be a good idea.
- Your child can get their hair cut in a familiar place, without the sensory overload of a salon.
Strategies For While You’re Waiting:
1. Take things to do:
Take an appointment ‘survival kit’ with you. This could include one or two favorite small toys, a book or audio book, favorite music or apps on a phone or tablet.
- You can also use this strategy during the appointment to distract your child and help them feel more comfortable.