A first visit to the dentist can be challenging for any parent. If your child is on the autism spectrum, you may have unique fears about how your child will handle this kind of visit. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make your appointment with the dentist a little more successful.
Talk to Your Dentist
The first step in helping your child cope is to make those around him or her understand exactly how he or she might react to the dentist. Talk to your dentist and the office staff about your child and the concerns you might have. Your child is likely not the first on the spectrum to visit the office, and your dentist might be more than happy to discuss recommendations to make the process easier for your child.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Your next step is to normalize going to the dentist. Drive by the dentist in your area when you can, telling your child about what is done there. If your child enjoys television, watch developmentally-appropriate shows that feature dentists. If your child receives speech or occupational therapy, you may even want to let your child practice having his or her teeth touched. Normalization of the basic aspects of the dental visit can be quite helpful.
Provide a Comfort Item
It’s also a good idea to make sure that your child has access to items that help to calm him or her. Bringing along a stim toy can be a great idea, as can bringing along a weighted vest or blanket. Many pediatric offices also let children watch television or even play video games during their examination, so ensuring that your child has something soothing to watch and/or play can be incredibly helpful.
Minimize Waiting Time
Finally, make sure that you keep the process as short and sweet as possible. Talk to your dental staff about your child and let them know that you’ll be there as close to the start of the procedure as possible. Fill out all the paperwork ahead of time and consider having the office call you as soon as they are ready for you. This gives fewer chances for meltdowns in the waiting room and keeps things moving for everyone.
Going to the dentist is largely a process of adaptation. Talk with everyone involved and help calm your child when you can, then provide adaptive tools to help your child cope. The visit will be over faster than you think, and you and your child will know that you’ve conquered another challenge.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan