Doctor’s office visits can be really scary and anxiety-provoking for children with special needs. It is normal to be a little apprehensive with some of these appointments, and some children are able to tolerate them better than others. Having to go to the dentist, doctor’s office, hospital, and getting shots are an inevitable part of life and we want to find strategies to help our children through these tasks with as little stress, anxiety, frustration, and meltdowns as possible.
Try the following:
1. Some medical offices (doctors, dentists, hospitals) cater to children and children with special needs. Doing a little research ahead of time before the appointment could help you find a medical office which has medical professionals who are trained to work with children and children with special needs which can make the whole experience go a little smoother.
2. Do a trial run. See if the medical office will allow you to do a trial run before the actual appointment and will allow you to sit and wait in the waiting room, get checked in, and then go to an exam room. By doing a trial run it allows a child to become comfortable and familiar with the setting to help decrease anxiety and fear of the unknown when the actual appointment happens.
3. Provide a verbal heads up and description of what will happen.
4. Talk about it being a positive experience. After the appointment happens, use it as a chance to talk to your child about the experience and how they did a good job (even if they got a little upset) and how we need to go to doctors, dentists, hospitals to stay healthy, but the appointment is now over and we don’t need to worry about it for a couple of months.
I hope these strategies provide help for any upcoming medical appointments you may have. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any additional questions.
See you soon!
Michael Jankowski, MS, OTR/L
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