Going to a Medical Appointment

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All children, at one time or another, require a visit to the doctor’s office. Most of the time, it is for routine care, but it might also be for a visit with a specialist. To provide a positive experience, preparing both the child and medical team is important.

Suggestions for a positive healthcare experience:

  • Remember to bring whatever communication system your child uses (for example, pictures or an iPad®). Even if your child has language, the visit to the medical setting can be stressful and your child may not be able to use the language he or she has. The medical staff needs to have access to the best way to communicate with your child.
  • Request an early or late appointment. Think about:
    • the time of day that may be best for your child;
    • the time that the office is least busy; and
    • the time least intrusive to your child’s daily routine.
  • Plan for the visit. The office can offer instructions about what will happen. Consider using a Social Story™.
  • Bring rewards and reinforcements that will be encouraging to your child. Consider providing your child with “If ______ then _____” options (If we go to the doctor, then you can receive a reward).
  • Bring a “bag of tricks” including:
    • Comfort items (for example, favorite toys, blanket, snack, books); and
    • Items to help distract your child’s attention from the medical setting (for example, video games, DVD movie players, music, noise blocking headphones, or sensory stimulatory items).
  • Make sure you speak to the medical team about any special needs or accommodations your child may need, such as environmental modifications, including assistance with transitions and limiting the number of people in the room at a time.

You know your child best, and you know what may work to support him or her in this unfamiliar setting. Work with the medical staff help make the appointment a successful one for you and your child.

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Last Updated: June 9, 2020

The Center for Autism Research and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia do not endorse or recommend any specific person or organization or form of treatment. The information included within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ and CAR Resource Directory™ should not be considered medical advice and should serve only as a guide to resources publicly and privately available. Choosing a treatment, course of action, and/or a resource is a personal decision, which should take into account each individual's and family's particular circumstances.


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