By Kate Ranta on Apr 15, 2016 @ 09:00 AM
Parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) know all too well that a dentist visit can pose many challenges. That’s because children with ASD have a variety of sensory and communicative issues that can trigger behaviors during a visit.
Now you’re being told that he/she needs braces. This means a whole new set of obstacles to overcome.
Children with autism are so routine-based that going to the orthodontist and being fitted for braces can be unnerving for them—and for you.
Here are some steps you can take to ease the anxiety for your child with autism and make the experience as successful as possible:
When you start looking for an orthodontist, you should call the office and discuss your child’s needs. Ask if they have experience treating children with autism and if they have procedures and policies in place to address their needs. These can include:
- Allowing you to be in the room during the exam
- Flexibility with scheduling so appointments are at a time of day when you know your child is at his/her best
- Making sure wait times are short
- Having the same orthodontist and/or assistant at each visit for consistency
Take the answers given to you into close consideration. The first visit will set the tone for future appointments with your child and you want it to be successful. If the answers to your questions make you feel uncomfortable, it’s probably a good idea to keep looking for another provider.
A good idea may be to view a preparatory video on YouTube. This way, your child can actually visualize what will happen ahead of time and listen to the orthodontist explain the step by step process of what will happen.
Another very effective step is to read (or create yourself) a social story. You can adapt a story about going to the dentist and read it several times before going to the orthodontist appointment. This can help ease any uncertainty your child may have about what will happen at the visit. You know your child best, so make sure to focus on the things that he/she is most likely to be concerned about. This may be anything from the light shining in his/her eyes, X-rays being taken, impressions being made, or unfamiliar noises.
You might also include some motivation for good behavior to be received when the appointment is over. Think about things your child is into and leverage that as an incentive. You can stop for a treat afterwards or purchase a new toy. You can get creative with this one and it can be very effective!
Taking your child with autism to the orthodontist presents challenges for you as a parent, for your child and for the office staff. However, you can all work together to reduce those anxieties. Researching and choosing the best provider for your child—and preparing him/her for the visit—creates a better understanding of what to expect. This greatly increases success for children with autism and braces!