Yanub asked an intelligent question in the comments of my last post. She does that a lot actually. This was no exception. She asked how Joe does with doctors visits?
The answer is a simple one:
Now comes the less simple qualification of that answer.
A LOT of the dependency is on my attitude and how I handle myself, him, Grace, the staff etc. If I am calm and upbeat, things go a lot better. If I am stressed and snappy, well... that sets the tone for everyone else.
Of course, how he is feeling is the other big factor in this. If he is in pain and anxious... well, he requires pretty delicate handling. But he is generally pretty good at doctor visits. He knows the drill and he will usually co-operate after a fashion: even if he refuses to speak to someone directly, he will allow them to take his blood pressure and listen to his chest.
When he was younger, I spent many unhappy minutes (that felt like hours) coaxing him out from under waiting-room chairs. And of course, there was that memorable occasion in a hospital in New Jersey when a 6-year-old Joe tried his Ninja moves on a stupid radiology tech (and they sent this HUMONGOUS bodybuilder guy to restrain my 48lb little boy -that story ended well, thank goodness).
So yeah, over the years, I have learned a few things that keep my (our) stress levels down.
The single biggest factor in this is to be prepared as much as possible.
I carry a letter in my purse for the ER and similar occasions (dentist, radiologist, new specialists... etc). Here is what it says.
This is Joe. He is High Functioning Autistic.
Here are some tips for how best to approach him:
- He may
not look at you. He may even turn his back to you, but he will answer questions. Please don’t force him to face you or to look at you.
if you address questions to him, he will address the answer to his trusted
adult. This is normal behavior for him and don’t take it personally.
- He may
try to hide at first. Just keep talking normally, tell him what you need
him to do, and he will come out. If there is any problem with him, let his trusted adult handle the situation.
- It is
better to explain what you plan to do before you do it. He likes to be
prepared for things like touching.
- He is
very interested in science. If you wish to engage him, explain what you
are doing is scientific and how it works.
This usually works.
also like Pokemon and video games (Star Wars)
hates to have his head or hair touched.
touching him, please try to use a firm relaxed hand, rather than a very
light touch. This works better for him.
- Joe stutters. Please don’t complete his sentences. Be patient and it the answer will come out.
If we are in the ER or a new doctor's office, I simply hand this letter over to the triage nurse or receptionist, ask her to read it and to be sure everyone dealing with him reads it. This works a treat for MANY reasons:
- I don't have to explain all about Autism over the decibel level of a panicked child
- It keeps Joe's business private
- It allows me to concentrate on him while the staff come up to speed.
- It really, REALLY changes people's attitude towards him. If they decide he is just a brat, they are much less likely to treat him kindly or to listen to me (because they have already pre-judged me as having spawned and raised a brat)
Other elements of being prepared are simple, but can be the difference between maintaining and losing your sanity in a public place.
1. Know the way to the children's ER. If on vacation, you can be forgiven for not knowing the way to the hospital or or for going in the wrong door or parking in the wrong lot. However, take the time to learn this stuff in your own town BEFORE YOU NEED IT. You will be very glad if you ever do.
2. Have snacks, drinks, and/or small bills to hand. I can guarantee time spent in the ER waiting room will mean a missed meal or snack (and therefore a grumpy kid). Have food and drinks on-hand if at all possible -especially if your kid is on a special diet. Keep some stuff in the car at all times. If you don't have snacks, at least have some change and small bills for the vending machine.
3. Have entertainment if possible; a book, game boy or similar can really help if there is a lot of waiting. It distracts them and calms them if it is something familiar and gives them something to do. Cellphones are useful for this in a pinch. Grace has sat happily in the ER playing Tetris on my cellphone. She nearly had a heart attack when it rang, mind you. Thankfully it was Daddy...
"Hello? Oh! Hi Dad! We're in the ER!..." (now whose turn was it for a heart attack?)