Sensory Overload - Autism and the Doctor's Office

Sorry!  I meant to post this earlier.

I was trying to think of instances when someone might be excited to go to the doctor.  I asked a friend, and she came up with a few.  When a woman is going to find out if she's pregnant, when you're having a procedure done that will make your life lasik eye surgery, when you know it's the last time you have to go after a long series of visits (but my guess is that you're more excited about the prospects of not having to go again rather than actually going.)  Ok, I guess there's a few, but let's be honest...even these visits cause a lot of anxiety.  When I had lasik eye surgery done, they offered Valium for the anxiety.

My visits cause anxiety.  And let's recall from my post about the brain, that the amygdala (it's weakness being low tolerance for stress and anxiety) is 4 times as big in a individual with autism.

Ok, so here goes my list of some (not all) reasons why going to the doctor can cause sensory overload for some kids (and adults) with autism.  In a future post I will share an experience that one mother shared with me of how her doctor made it such a successful visit with her son with autism.
  • The anxiety of going to the unknown
  • This trip is not part of my daily routine
  • When we arrive, we have to wait to check in
  • Mom or dad is filling out paperwork instead of paying attention to me
  • I get yelled at every time I walk away 
  • Florescent lights flickering
  • Phones ringing
  • TV playing, but it's not my favorite show
  • Waiting to see the doctor
  • Someone calls my name, and we are taken through a door to the unknown
  • They make me stand on a scary looking machine to weigh me, but I don't know what that means
  • I get in trouble when I don't stand still on the scary machine
  • I am taken to a little room, and I have to wait...again
  • They make me sit high in the air on some crinkly paper that doesn't feel good
  • It smells weird
  • There are objects around me that don't look familiar
  • A stranger comes in and gets in my space, looking at my eyes, in my ears, in my mouth, etc.
  • This same stranger has a some weird things coming out of his ears and he wants to put it on my heart, but I don't know why.  It's cold and uncomfortable.
  • Sometimes another stranger comes in with pokey things and she stabs me with them, and it hurts
  • After I cry for a while, I get to leave

Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Services for Children with Autism

photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik via photopin cc

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