As a parent, it is only normal to want what is best for your child, including forming healthy habits. Forming a dental hygiene regimen is an important part of overall health and something that all children nee, as is visiting the dentist. However, if you have an autistic child, you may find that visiting a doctor, let alone a dentist, is often a difficult task. Fortunately, there are ways to encourage your young child that a trip to the dentist is both beneficial and fun.
Prepare Your Local Dentist
First, before you prepare your autistic child, you should prepare your dentist for the upcoming visit. If you are visiting a new dentist, you should speak to him or her before making an appointment. Make the dentist and officer workers aware of the fact that your child has autism. Many medical professionals, including dentists, understand that autism can make the world seem like a scary, unpredictable place. However, they can ensure they do everything possible to make your child comfortable when he or she comes to visit if they know what to expect.
Drive by the Dentist's Office
When you think of autism, you likely think of common sensitivities, such as to light and sound. However, autistic children are also often sensitive to change. Unpredictability can cause a heightened sense of anxiety, which is something you would want to avoid. Before taking your child to the dentist, drive by and talk about the location. Point out the office to your child and make it seem like something exciting. The more you expose your child to the location, the better. You want the visit to the office to become something predictable.
Introduce the Dentist
Meeting new people is not something many autistic children can handle. In fact, meeting new people can also be a cause for anxiety flare-ups. One way to ease your child's fear of the unknown is to introduce the new dentist, but not necessarily face-to-face. At least, not right away. Ask the dentist if you can take his or her picture. Present the dentist's picture to your child and talk about how nice he or she is as a person and why it is so important to make a dental appointment. The goal is to help your child become familiar with the dentist's face prior to the visit.
Use Visual Aids to Explain the Visit
Next, you need to help your child understand what to expect from a dental visit. Remember, the goal is to make the visit as predictable as possible to help reduce anxiety. Visual supports often allow adults and autistic children to communicate with one another. Often a parent will use visuals to explain what events are going to take place and how so the child understands any changes to a daily routine, such as a dental visit. Using visual aids, you can explain to your child about the teeth cleaning procedure, dental x-rays, and everything in between.
Be Patient and Understanding
Despite your best efforts, it is possible that your child may still become upset and anxious when you step foot through the doors of the dentist's office. However, it is best to remain calm while showing patience and understanding. If you get upset, it will make your child even more anxious and upset. A visit to the dentist is important because children with autism may sometimes suffer from dental issues in comparison to children without autism. For instance, a study showed that autistic children often have greater amounts of dental plaque in comparison to children without autism.
Using patience and understanding can help calm your child, which is the best way to encourage a dental visit that goes well. The goal is to ensure your child's dental health, which means doing all that you can to make your child feel safe and comfortable. The last thing you want is for any potential dental issues to get out of hand and cause your child pain or discomfort.
Contact a clinic such as Family Dentistry Of Woodstock to find out more about the ways you can prepare your autistic child for a visit. Many dentists have dealt with a child similar to yours and can provide you with additional tips and tactics to ensure a smooth, easygoing visit.