Following a recent trip to the dentist, Hayden now appears to be very proud of his ‘nice and clean’ teeth; and his Mum Angela is feeling more confident about regular dental care for Hayden.
This recent success follows approximately 13 years of refusal to go anywhere near a dentist! His anxiety about sitting in that chair would result in tears and a meltdown. Angela feared they would never be able to get Hayden to the dentist again, without an anaesthetic. Hayden’s therapist, with the Association’s Adult Community Therapy and Clinical Services, was up for the challenge of allaying those fears, so Hayden could—at least—present himself for the essential teeth cleaning.
This would entail some thoughtful preparation. A social story came immediately to mind. In simple, language along with pictures the story could convey the entire process, from driving there in the car to seeing Mum in the waiting room afterwards and going home. The story would describe a positive experience; and so it was. To add to the appeal of the story it was decided to include some of Hayden’s favourite cartoon characters—Shaun the Sheep and friends.
The dentist, who was very calm with Hayden throughout, was obviously happy to be involved in ‘best practice’ in treating a young man who has Autism and was fearful of the procedure. Hayden did show a little anxiety when the chair was first lowered, but from then on the strategies employed worked well. These included showing Hayden the dental tools to be used and allowing him to touch them. It was explained to the dentist the importance of unhurried transitions in using the tools e.g., ‘we’re going to count to five…’ There was lots of positive reinforcement throughout and Hayden was sufficiently calm to echo the dentist’s comment: ‘nice and clean’, with feeling.
This has been a great outcome for both Hayden and Angela. It illustrates again the importance of planning and preparation, not only for the person with Autism, but for those closely involved in the person’s life as well. Further good news, a few weeks after this story was first told and Hayden is now brushing his teeth more regularly and using an electric tooth brush.
For further information on the Autism Association’s therapy services for adults, see: https://www.autism.org.au/our-services/adults/therapy-services-for-adults/