Posts Tagged ‘dentist social story’

Visiting the dentist with an autistic child

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

For many of us visiting the dentist is quite a scary thought which sparks an un-rational fear.  If parents have an un-rational fear, generally children will pick up on this and so the circle continues.

However this is not the case with autism, an autistic child will not generally pick up on their parents feelings and emotions. The ability to read facial expression and body language is missing in children with autism this is often referred to as the theory of mind.

So why for many parents is visiting the dentist with an autistic child so difficult?

Social skills deficits and sensory processing issues are common to autism. Autism is a developmental disability affecting an individual for life. Autism affects how the autistic individual thinks, acts, reacts, communication, imagination and how they process information.


Therefore looking at why visiting the dentist with an autistic child may be so difficult: The first consideration when taking an autistic child to the dentist many parents face is why do I need to see a dentist? This man or woman wearing a white coat, who expects them to lay in a chair with a bright light shining in their face, while they look into their mouth using strange equipment.

Although you yourself understand why it is important to have a regular check-up and keep your teeth and gums healthy. Your special needs child may not understand what healthy hygiene habits are, and indeed the importance of having healthy teeth and gums.

Finding autistic resources especially designed for autistic individuals that will help you explain the importance of dental check ups and healthy hygiene habits in autism can be difficult. But for many parents autistic resources such as social skills stories are useful for showing and explaining just these kinds of things.

So what do you need to be aware of when taking an autistic child to the dentist? Once you have actually got your child with autism in the dentist…

Your first hurdle could be the bright lights in the reception area, noise are their children waiting in the reception, other patients arriving, chatting, can you hear dentists treating other patients? Is there a buzzer or bell can you hear the receptionist on the phone while you’re waiting, all these small things can be anxiety triggers to children with autism.

Many autistic children are sensitive with sensory processing issues being common to autism. The mouth is one of the most sensitive areas on your body, so anything being put in or done to their mouth may cause an anxiety trigger for your special needs child.

The feel of the cold instrument entering their mouth, the drill sensation, the water spraying, the taste of the mouth wash or paste, all these things can be anxiety triggers to children with autism.

The feel of the dentist chair, the rubber gloves the dentist will wear, the bright light above their face, even the goggles they may be asked to wear are these coloured, if so this could also be an anxiety trigger for the ASD child.

Is the dentist wearing perfume or aftershave, the deodorant the nurse or dentist is wearing, the smell in the dentist room, even reception area, the lady opposite you waiting maybe she has perfume on that will trigger an anxiety attack for the ASD child all these things can have an affect when taking an autistic child to the dentist.

Maybe the dentist is not aware of the affects of autism and autistic sensory stimuli. Autism is growing in recognition but a lot of health professionals are still not aware of the affects of autism or autistic sensory stimuli and what they can do to help ease any anxieties.

As well as all these factors, probably the biggest factor of all is actually why…for many children with autism understanding why they are even there, why they need to let the dentist look in their mouth. Using social skills stories will help explain this before you even step foot through the dentists door.


It is always a good idea to speak with the dentist before taking your child along, explain the affects of autism, what autism is and how your autistic child reacts to certain sensory stimuli. Explain sensory processing issues and that your autistic child is sensitive to stimuli and how this can be helped while your ASD child is there.

For example is there a private waiting room away from the busy reception area. That could be quieter and less likely to trigger anxieties before they even get into the dentists treatment room.


Can the instruments be warmed under warm water before they are used in your child’s mouth can your special needs child bring their own sun glasses along to protect their eyes rather than wear the dental glasses.

That way you can introduce the sun glasses at home before the visit, giving your special needs child time to get used to them before the check up.


Do you have ear muffs that could block out the noise of the drill? Ask for the mouth rinse to be plain water.

All these things need consideration before visiting the dentist with an autistic child.

One excellent autistic resource you will need to implement especially before the dental visit is a social skills story. The social skills story can help explain why they need to visit the dentist and some of the things that will happen while they are there. Research shows many parents use social stories to help prepare an autistic child to visit the dentist.

Social skills stories will give your ASD child clear instructions and explanations as to what is happening, answering the “wh” questions –  who, where, why, when and what showing visually what is happening, what they can expect from others at the time, and what others will be expecting of them.


Armed with a social skills story and the other suggestions I have made you can help your autistic child cope adequately visiting the dentist. Social stories are an autistic resource that is used for helping a child with autism cope with many other skills, situations, activities and events that they will come across in their everyday lives, things we take for granted as “normal”. But to an autistic child can be distressing even frightening.

For a carefully planned and written Autism dentist social story visit


Where you will find more information on social skills stories that will help your child with autism cope with and understand social situations they may be struggling with like for example Autism dentist social story

Social stories for getting a haircut,

Social stories for a hospital visit

Social stories for students and so on

Visit: and get downloads of 100 social skills stories.