Going to unfamiliar places and appointments can be scary for a child. Think about it, your child is being taken to an unfamiliar environment with people who are strangers to them. Imagine what is like for a child with a disability whether cognitive, language, and/or sensory? How can you help your child prepare for this situation?
Talk with your child a few days before the appointment and explain as best you can what to expect during the appointment. Be honest. Is the person a doctor? Will there be shots or needles? Will there be an examination? Do they have to undress? Will they have their mouth/eyes/etc examined? Will they be expected to talk with strangers? Will you leave them alone for the appointment? Why are they being taken to a new appointment? These are all things that can be frightening for children of any age if they are not prepared. Revisit this conversation the night before or morning of. Also think and plan with your child of a fun activity and/or reward that he/she can do with you right after the appointment. It does not have to be something expensive. It can be as simple as: spending the rest of the day in pajamas at home watching TV together. Or, going to the park for the afternoon, etc…
If possible drive by the new building. For some children the reassurance of seeing where they are going beforehand can help lessen their anxiety.
Role play what the appointment may include. If your child is going to the dentist, play dentist with them. Look in their mouth as though you are the dentist and have them do the same to you.
Tell them about your experiences related to the appointment if you have any.
If you have appointments with the doctor/specialist as well have your child come and observe yours. For example, if you both need to have eye exams schedule your appointment before your child’s appointment. This way they can watch you experience it and know what to expect.
Most places have webpages now. Visit the webpage for where you are going and let your child look at it. They most likely will be able to see the person prior to the appointment this way. Some websites (like ours!) have videos and pictures to help prepare for the visit.
Read stories about the kind of place you are going to or make one up.
Here is a social story to read before coming to Gambaru!
My first visit to Gambaru Corp.
Today I am going to Gambaru!
I am going to have a speech/OT appointment.
When I get to Gambaru, I will enter the waiting room and check in with Ms. Fabiola at the front desk.
Then my clinician Ms. _________ will come out to greet me.
I will go into the therapy room with her.
I can use my words and ask my mom or dad to come in with me and the therapist.
There are swings, a slide, ball pit and lots of other fun things!
I have to take off my shoes, so I can use the swings and other equipment.
I may go in other rooms to do arts and crafts, read books, practice talking and answer questions.
I may visit their pet tortoise Shelly!
I may go to the kitchen and help make then eat snack.
I have to clean up at the end of my session.
After I am done with my appointment I will put on my shoes and go back to the waiting room.
If I did good listening I can ask Ms. Fabiola for a lollipop or sticker!