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Throughout your child’s lifetime, they’ll see dozens of doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals. Over time, you may form a bond with healthcare providers and come to rely on the services they offer.

How to Prepare Your Autistic Child to Switch Health Providers

However, doctors retire, therapists move, your health insurance changes, and you’ll need to switch healthcare providers at some point. Not only can it be challenging to find a provider who understands your needs, but navigating this change can be difficult for some children with autism. Every child is different, but it’s always hard to say “goodbye” to someone your child trusts. 

As a parent, you can help prepare your autistic child to switch health providers one step at a time with these four essential tips.

Communicate

Every child experiences autism spectrum disorder (ASD) differently. However, research shows that many children with autism struggle to process changes to their schedules or routine. Change can cause anxiety for children with autism, making it more challenging to get the help you need. 

Please help your child understand the need for change by communicating those changes well before they happen. Be proactive and gather as much information about the change as possible. Explain to your child why they’ll be seeing a different doctor. Provide as many details about the new provider as possible, such as whether you’ll be going to a new office, so your child knows what to expect.

It would be best if you reaffirm the importance of preventative health practices with your child. Discuss how they still need to see a doctor to stay healthy, even if it’s different. If it helps, go over specific reasons why regular doctors’ visits are so beneficial; you may even touch on why it’s essential for their long-term health.

Ease Them In

If you have the luxury of time, ease your child into seeing a new healthcare provider. Give them time to process their emotions and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about this subject more than once if that’s what they need.

There are several steps you can take to make transitions go smoothly, but one thing that may be particularly helpful is a “practice run.” Before booking an appointment with the new provider, visit their physical location. Be sure to call the office or hospital before your visit and ask them if you can have a look around with your child. If possible, a quick “meet and greet” with the new healthcare provider is a great way to calm nerves and reduce the chance of a meltdown come time for your first appointment.

As a parent you can help prepare your autistic child to switch health providers one step at a time with these four essential tips

Guage their Response

In an ideal world, your child instantly bonds with every new therapist, nurse, or doctor they meet. However, many children are suspicious of healthcare providers and may take a while to “unlock” and open up to them. 

When visiting a new healthcare provider, gauge your child’s response and how the provider engages with them. For example, if your child is transitioning to a new therapist, sit in on the first few sessions to listen and observe, if possible. Please pay attention to how the therapist treats your child and how your child responds to them. If you can join them for their appointments, ask your child for their opinion about the experience. If your child doesn’t respond to the new provider or something seems amiss, it’s better to find someone else.

Bouncing between different healthcare professionals can be frustrating, but you need to find the right provider for your child. If you feel that a new provider doesn’t have a great understanding of autism or your child’s needs, move on as soon as you’re able. Advocating for your child is always the right choice and will ensure that you find the right provider for their unique needs. 

Create a New Routine

Once you’ve found a provider you both love, it’s time to make a routine. Before you involve your child, start with your schedule and responsibilities. This will help you strike a better work-life balance and ensure you have all the time and energy needed to support your child. Ask yourself questions like: 

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  • How often do you need to take your child to a doctor, therapist, or specialist? 
  • How much time off can you take from work?
  • Who can help take your child to healthcare appointments if you cannot do so? 
  • When can your child be excused from school or kindergarten? 

Once you’ve answered these questions, start making the necessary appointments and filling in your calendar. Ideally, you’ll want to schedule appointments for preventative care, like dentistry or optometry, in advance to ensure you get a time that works for your schedule. 

After making the appointments, consider involving your child in the physical schedule. Give them access to your calendar, or help them to make a calendar of their own. This will give them a sense of control and ensure they don’t have any surprises in the future. 

How to Prepare Your Autistic Child to Switch Health Providers

Switching healthcare providers can be stressful for you and your child. You must adjust your schedule and ensure that the new provider is a good fit before making any long-term commitments. Make the process easier by communicating before the change happens, and allow your child to be part of the decision-making process.

Alicia Trautwein is an Autism advocate, writer, motivational speaker, and dedicated mom of four. Alicia’s desire to advocate for Autism comes from her own autism diagnosis and that of her three children, niece, and brother. Her life’s mission is to educate on autism acceptance and change the world for future generations of autistic individuals.

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