The number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has increased dramatically. Between 1970-1980 only 1 in 2000 children were diagnosed with ASD. In 2014, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released new data identifying that 1 in 68 children have Autism Spectrum Disorder.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder, that affect’s an individuals ability to communicate and interact with others. It is called a “spectrum” disorder because individuals with ASD can have a range of symptoms. A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed individually: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now called Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Dental Care for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Children with autism may show one or several of the following characteristics; problems with social interactions, unusual interest in objects, repeated actions or body movements, sensory sensitivities and unusual emotional reactions and expressions. Dental providers must therefore be trained and willing to go the extra mile to give a child with autism a good experience.
Children with autism do not show any difference in their dental presentation compared to other children. The main difference seen in the dental setting is the flow and management of the appointment. Patients with autism may exhibit great anxiety during the initial dental visit and later visits due to their fear of the unknown and their inability to communicate this fear. There are a number of behavior management techniques that can be used by a pediatric dentist to help alleviate these fears.
Useful Tips for Successful Dental Appointments for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Use social stories prior to the patient’s visit.
- Social stories, give a person information about social situations they find difficult or confusing. They are a strength-based teaching strategy, which builds on natural skills and behaviors.
- Request a doctor only visit for the initial appointment
- Communicate with the doctor about things that can possibly disturb the patient: light, sound, taste
- Patient should be scheduled at the start of the day—ask to be the first patient
- Keep it routine: request the same doctor, same staff, and same room