Fear of the dentist is common amongst all children, but especially for those on the Autism Spectrum who often have additional sensory processing difficulties. While a patient and experienced dentist is key to a positive experience, there are plenty of ways to prepare your child for the big appointment, and your child’s therapist can play a big role! Professionals at ACT Learning Centre have a lot of experience helping children overcome fear of the unknown, including anxiety surrounding the dentist. Our therapists will work with parents and guardians to successfully prepare your child for what to expect at the dentist. The following are strategies that can be implemented before, during and after your appointment to ensure a successful visit and reduce apprehensions for future appointments.
Before the visit
Practice: Your therapist at ACT Learning Centre can role play situations that the child will experience at the dentist appointment prior to the visit. This practice helps your child understand what to expect, thus reducing anticipatory anxiety.
Social stories: Social stories are a useful tool to prepare your child for upcoming events. Your therapist will create a social story about the dentist, which can be used to explain why going to the dentist is important and necessary.
Familiarization appointment: Bright lights, mysterious equipment and strangers in masks can be frightening, especially if the atmosphere is entirely new. Most dentists will allow families with children on the Autism Spectrum to come in to meet the dentist in advance of the appointment to help ease anxieties and become familiar with the environment and staff at the dental office.
During the visit
If desired, your therapist can accompany you and your child to the dentist appointment to help support your child through the experience.
Following the dentist
Reinforcement is key! ACT Learning Centre can help you plan a reinforcement strategy to reward your child for overcoming their fears and successfully completing dental appointments.