Credit: Jane Sandwood, freelance writer
Date: November 27, 2018

Children with autism are 2 to 15 times more likely to develop epilepsy and are at a higher risk for anxiety and depression. Therefore, it is important to take your child to regular visits to the hospital so that they can get the attention and medical care they need. However, it is also critical that you do all you can to make sure these hospital visits are comfortable and nurturing so that your child is more encouraged to receive regular medical care. As a trip to the hospital can be scary for any young child, for a child on the spectrum, that fear is compounded by other developmental issues that can make a doctor’s visit truly terrifying. So, the introduction to a new physician or nurse is key and as a parent, you can do wonders to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

Call the Nurse Ahead and Plan Your Visit
You will want to do your research before settling on a hospital or a nurse and talk with your chosen provider ahead of time. Make sure that the provider’s office can make individual accommodations for your child and provide the supporting and nurturing environment that you need. You should also decide if you want to go into a hospital or have a nurse that can travel to you. Sometimes it can be easier for a child to adjust to a new nurse if the nurse comes to your home or another place that your child is familiar with.

Communication with Your Child is Key
Once you settle on an option for your healthcare provider, it is important that you communicate everything clearly and concisely to your child. Explain to him or her that everyone sees a doctor and that it is important for their health to grow big and strong. You will also want to tell them that this is just one nurse out of many and that he or she has the option to pick another one if they don’t like him or her. This option will make the introduction less frightening and relieve some of your child’s stress.

Start in a Non-Stimulating Environment
For children on the spectrum, the world is a very loud place and sensory stimuli comes from all over the place. Therefore, their brains can’t sort through all the noise and focus on social interactions such as meeting a new nurse. You can increase your chance of a happy and comfortable introduction though by choosing a quiet, non-stimulating environment to conduct the meeting. Try a room with mute colors, such as white or pale pink, blue, or green and avoid having too many medical instruments in the room for the first introduction. If you have a traveling nurse that is able to meet you at your home, you will want to meet somewhere that is familiar to your child. This might be his or her room or their play area.

Take Small, Baby Steps
For the first meeting, it is important that you don’t push too hard and that you take baby steps. You should be right by your child’s side throughout the entire first meeting or consultation as this will help him or her remain calm and comfortable with the new experience. Every time the nurse needs to use a medical tool, be sure to have them demonstrate on you first before your child. This will show him or her that it is okay and that the nurse is someone that can be trusted. You may also want to bring a comfort item or distraction toy with you so that your child can have a familiar and supportive environment.

When your child meets a new nurse, it is important that you provide as much support and love as you can. Communicate effectively and do all that you can to make sure the introduction is as familiar and comfortable as possible.