I have three children—each one has doctor appointments and checkups throughout the year. My daughter has complex medical needs so she has the most appointments out of everyone in our house. Unfortunately, she also has the most anxiety, especially about appointments. She is usually fine when we get there, but I do a lot of appointment-prepping to help ease her anxiety.
We don’t talk about appointments until the day of the appointment. Because she has an Intellectual disability, time is a very hard concept for her. She does not understand “tomorrow” or “next week,” so we do all our prepping on the day of the appointment.
I think the biggest help for her anxiety is distractions, I cannot say enough about using them to help ease those anxieties.
I start the day by reading a social story about going to the doctor’s office and what to expect. Just getting this book out always triggers her anxiety about shots. Other than the possibility of getting a shot or hearing another kid crying at the appointment, she likes the appointments. I never want to lie, but sometimes I may not be sure if she needs a shot, so when she asks, I will use distraction techniques to avoid answering until I know for sure.
Another idea that has helped is stopping to get a snack after appointments. Eating out is always a special treat. We can talk about where we are going to go and what we will eat. This is always a good distraction topic and something rewarding to look forward to.
She always expects stickers from the doctor’s office at appointments. Sometimes they do not have them, so I keep a stash in my purse. I also bring along coloring books and an iPad, all of which are great distractions and fun.
Read articles from other parents about preparing for appointments in the blog articles on this website
Living with a child who has mental health issues can come with a lot of unknowns just like having a child with physical health issues. But society can treat both children very differently.