September 20, 2021


Pro Tips

Pro Tips: Visiting the Doctor’s Office

Visits to the doctor’s office can be a stressful experience for you and your child. Children are brought into an environment they see maybe once a year, and the unfamiliar surroundings and medical exam can be overwhelming. Parents also experience stress knowing how their child might react and that others in the waiting area may not understand.

To make these trips smoother, we’ve come up with some tips for a better experience for both you and your child:

1. Desensitize at a young age.

If you can, start introducing the concept of a doctor visit early on in your child’s life. It takes time and effort to gradually desensitize children with autism to the idea of a doctor’s visit. Consider purchasing commonly used tools, such as a stethoscope or tongue depressors, to let your child see them, play with them and become comfortable with them. Pair this with some type of positive reinforcement, such as their favorite movie playing in the background or a treat.

At The Summit Center, our staff practice familiarizing students in need with this approach. Once a child is familiar with the medical equipment, a staff member will move on to simulate how the tools are used, such as touching a stethoscope to a child’s chest. Staff continue to use positive reinforcement until they are able to complete an entire run through of a mock medical exam.

2. Create a social story.

Try to get pictures of the doctor’s office, the exam room, and the doctor and nurse that your child will meet with. Show these pictures to your child daily and tell them what they’re going to see, what the doctor is going to ask, and what the exam will be like so they know what to expect.

Some offices may let you schedule a practice appointment so your child can come in, meet the doctor, and see where the exam is going to be so they’re more comfortable when the day of the real appointment arrives.

3. Come prepared.

Let your doctor know ahead of time that you will be coming. Bring a backpack with some of your child’s favorite toys and treats. Limit access to these items a few days before the visit so that your child will be excited to use them while at the doctor’s office. If you notice your child is becoming anxious or upset, you can pull out one of these items as a distraction.

4. Don’t be complacent.

The most important thing for you and your child is that they are receiving the best care in an accepting, comfortable environment. You should have high expectations of your child’s doctor.  If your doctor isn’t willing to work with you to make the visit as easy as possible, consider finding another doctor. You can get recommendations from The Summit Center or even through parent groups on social media.

If you’re unsure how to handle a situation or need access to resources, reach out to your child’s teacher or behavior staff. We’re experts here at The Summit Center and want to help you and your child succeed.

Pro Tips provided by: Johanna Shaflucas, M.S. Ed., BCBA, Clinical Coordinator of Behavioral Support