Did you know that April is Autism Awareness month? Studies have shown that autism has been identified in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. So how can we accommodate patients with autism? Here are some helpful tips to consider:
1. Ask. This starts with our front desk team. The patient’s guardian will let you know about the patient’s autism. It is okay to ask if there are any special requests, or if there is anything we can do to make the visit a comfortable environment. Be aware that most of autistic patients tend to be sensitive to a lot of noise and bright lights. Offer the patient noise cancellation headphones while they are in the waiting room or while they are getting treatment. Ask if they would like to wear the iron apron that is used during xrays while they get treatment. The weight from the apron can be calming. Always make sure they are comfortable, especially when switching locations within the office.
2. Explain. Make sure to communicate at a pace they’re comfortable with both verbal and nonverbally. It is also helpful if you show the patient what tools you are going to use and explain how they will help complete the job. If they have a sibling there, have the patient watch the sibling go first (if sibling remains calm) so they can see the physical explanation of what is going on. We also suggest having a book, or some kind of pictures on hand that explain what the doctor is doing for those who may prefer to look through pictures.
3. Positivity. Praise the patient each step of the way through the appointment calmly with a smile. If the patient gets upset make sure you stay positive and speak in a soft voice.
4. Be consistent. If possible schedule the patient with the same dental hygienist and dentist at each visit. This will allow a relationship to develop and it will help the patient feel more comfortable.
Another important thing to remember is that everyone who has autism is not the same. Each person will react differently during an appointment. We must tailor to each patient whether they have autism or not. Everyone deserves to have a great experience with his or her dentist/orthodontist!
How is your office showing support for Autism this April? We have created several t-shirts that we can customize for your office staff to show support. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact us today!