Taking your son/daughter with an ASD to the dentist

The Indiana Resource Center for Autism

Taking your son/daughter on the autism spectrum to the dentist poses many challenges. This article hopes to make you aware of some of these challenges prior to your first visit, as well as provide some useful ways to deal with them. Included in this article are three main areas that are most often in need of attention:preparation, sensory issues and communication.

Preparation
When seeking a dentist, call the office and discuss your son/daughter’s needs. The more you know ahead of time about their practices and why they do them, the more comfortable you will be. Ask if they have experience with children who have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and if they have special procedures in order to optimize each visit. Ask about those procedures. Some procedures you might ask about are:accompanying your son/daughter in the room while doing the exam; having an appointment at a time of day when your son/daughter is at his/her best; having a short wait time; and having the same staff at each visit for consistency. If you’re not comfortable with the answers to your questions, consider another dentist. Some dentists may refuse to treat your son/daughter because they’re unsure how to make them comfortable.

Is your son/daughter accustomed to daily tooth brushing? If not, consider working with an occupational therapist (OT) or an autism or behavioral professional to teach the child good oral hygiene habits. Use of visual routines and a timer are helpful for good daily brushing habits. Continue reading

Awareness is a key bullying prevention tool

by Rebekah Heinrichs M.S.N., M.S. Ed. – Autism Support Network

Alex is 16 years old and diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. He looks like a typical adolescent and spends his school day in general education classes. Alex experiences teasing and bullying in school related to his disability. He believes that other students don’t understand about Asperger Syndrome and that they resent the special help he receives from his teachers. Alex also feels that the other students get the wrong idea about his sensory issues. He makes a video describing his life as a person with Asperger Syndrome in the hope that it will help his peers understand him better. In fact, he feels so strongly about helping others understand that he decides to put his video on YouTube for the whole world to see.

Alex says,

“I hope that because of this video and I showed you the way that I learn and how I express how I feel, that you guys can probably understand me much better… and actually treat people with Asperger’s equally and give probably more respect to and treat them right and not just consider them plain old people who just want to get what they want … and maybe I’ll finally know and actually have a break once in a while.”

I had the chance recently to speak at the International Bullying Prevention Association’s annual conference. I presented information about bullying prevention and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) to an audience of parents, professionals, and experts in the field of bullying prevention. During my keynote, I spoke about the Power of Empathy. Empathy means being with people in their vulnerabilities. We move towards empathy when we are willing to tell our stories even though we feel vulnerable and afraid. We move towards empathy when we are willing to listen and relate to the stories of others. Empathy moves us towards making connections and building meaningful relationships. Empathy is the common thread in bullying prevention for bullies, targets, and bystanders. Continue reading

Lesson From A T-Rex

by Becca Harkema – Autism Support Network

Even though we are not supposed to have favorites, all teachers have a favorite student. This student is the one that we continue to wonder and think about years after we actually have this student in class. For me, this student is Justin. Oddly enough, when I first met Justin, in no way did I ever think that this child would become the one that found his way into that special place in my heart.

Justin was a third grade student with autism in my cross-categorical special education classroom. His family moved into the area about two weeks after school had begun, which meant that joining my classroom later in the year did not exactly fit his routine and schedule. The first day he started in our school, it took me twenty-five minutes to actually get him to step foot into the classroom (Luckily, I had a Smart Board that peaked his curiosity enough to enter the room). For the next few days that followed, Justin and I had some rocky moments as we both adjusted to each other.

One of those rocky moments came on a rainy Thursday afternoon in October. All of the students in the class were squirmy and irritable from being stuck inside all day, but this particularly affected Justin. He was having one of those days when nothing seemed to go his way and I knew he was seconds away from a melt-down at any given moment. It was just about time to get my class ready for library, and Justin asked to play on the computer. I answered him that it was not time to go on the computer because we had to leave for library. I am sure you can guess how that response went over with Justin. He became very upset, kicked me in the shins, and ran into the corner and screamed. Needless to say, Justin did not make it to library that day. Continue reading