Supporting Children with Autism
April is Autism Awareness month! Autism is a developmental issue that affects how a person communicates and how they respond to social interactions. Autism is a spectrum which means that there are varying degrees of how severely a person can be affected. There is a saying, “that if you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.” This saying acknowledges the fact that even though children on the spectrum can have similarities they are all unique individuals with their own unique abilities and unique challenges.
The challenges that many Autistic children face in the medical setting can be the new environment, new people, lighting can be too bright, the noise level can be too loud, and many more. Navigating the medical environment can be challenging, child life professionals can be there to help guide families and children through these challenges. With Autism, the biggest challenge is making the medical environment, tools, and words normal. This means that children and families need to begin preparation weeks or days in advance.
The child life professional can assist ASD children through medical experiences or procedures by guided breathing, distraction, and helping caregivers with preparation. For example, many children who are on the spectrum have a tough time with having their blood-pressure taken, The cuff can be a very strange experience for their sensory systems. The child life specialist can help the child take deep breaths during the taking of vital signs. They can also offer distractions such as blowing bubbles or playing I-Spy.
Here are some tips for caregivers that may not have access to a Child Life Specialist:
If your child likes to know what will happen, talk about what to expect using pictures
Help your child practice relaxing using techniques such as deep breathing and visualization.
Talk to the medical staff before you go.
Schedule the appointment at a good time of day for your child.
Ask to have someone there who has experience with special needs
Ask that your child be taken straight back without waiting.
Bring a comfort or distraction item.