What you can do in your setting
There are lots of small things you can do to support progress.
Make things fun
If a pupil finds something scary or upsetting, try and bring some fun into it. Bringing play into the situation can help relax the pupil. If they dislike having their temperature taken, involve the thermometer in a play session. Ask them if they want to take your temperature. Building play into a scary situation can help reduce anxiety when it comes to the actual procedure.
Visual stories are a great way of simplifying something complex. If a child is anxious about an appointment create a visual story explaining what is going to happen as well as when and why. This is something you can set up yourself. When creating a visual story, it is important to keep some things in mind:
- Keep it as simple as possible for the person. It needs to suit their level of understanding – pictures can be a good aid to the words
- Only include the essentials – take out any unnecessary detail
- Keep it positive and reassuring
For more information on creating visual stories, head over to our resources page.
We have been fortunate to have several books donated to our schools on a range of medical topics. There are loads of great children’s books about visits to appointments. If you don’t have access to any, you could reach out to your local medical centres or library to see if they have any you can borrow.
Dummy medical equipment
This is a great way to use play to help pupils with autism to feel more comfortable and relaxed around medical equipment before they attend appointments. Again, medical centres may have some equipment they could share, we were generously gifted a used examination chair. Do make sure the equipment is safe before letting pupils use it.
If your local GP, Dentist or Optician are happy with it, do some test runs with your pupil. If they allow it, this is a great way of getting them used to the journey to get to their appointment as well as the sign in process and waiting rooms. We have seen brilliant progress with our pupils taking them on weekly trips to get used to the environment. Or if you have issues with pupils visiting the medical room at school, you could set up different visits with a pupil or a group to try and relax them in that environment. Keep it fun!
These things take time. Perseverance and consistency is key to seeing those small steps begin to make a difference.