Not many people enjoy a trip to the hospital but for those on the autistic spectrum – especially children – it can be traumatic.
Hospitals are a sensory minefield for autistic children due to loud noises, smells and harsh lighting. It’s an onslaught on the senses alongside the anxiety of the reason they’re there in the first place so visits can be challenging for children and their parents. On top of that the tea and coffee is often of the vending variety – therefore crap.
We came to be in hospital because The Boy has been having nose bleeds and headaches with the headaches steadily getting worse so his GP referred him to a pediatrician who he saw this week.
First off he was weighed and measured and I can officially state that he is 4 foot 2 inches tall. He’s only six years old and he’s almost as tall as me! *gasp* He’s always been bigger than the average bear height-wise and this has always confused people into thinking he’s older than he is. Of course, Hedwig the owl also had to be weighed and measured and she’s 26 cm’s tall and 0.3 kg – in-case you were wondering.
Then it was in to see the pediatrician. The Boy entertained himself by turning the taps on and off while she wrote down his history. Then she examined him as best as you can examine a child with ASD but he allowed her to listen to his heart on condition that she listened to Hedwig’s too, which she did.
She informed us that headaches in children are common and she thinks his are migraines. Apparently a child is more likely to have migraines if a parent has them and in our case, that’s me.
Due to his age (and the fact that the headaches have been increasing) she wants him to have an MRI scan which can be a bit lengthy but is completely safe. However, knowing how The Boy struggles to keep still at the best of times – I can see this being a huge challenge for him.
I had an MRI scan when he was born. They whipped him out of my tummy and whizzed me off to the MRI room and that’s all I remember because I was completely trollied on morphine so I slept through the entire thing but I’m hoping that it will be of some comfort to my son to know that I’ve had one. Obviously, I won’t tell him about the ‘being trollied’ bit.
After the pediatrician had done her stuff a play worker took us into a side room (aka baby change) to explain to The Boy in child friendly terms what would happen but anxiety was threatening to overwhelm him. He was making more owl noises than human ones (a sure sign of distress) but she understood that it was unwise to go any further at this stage. We came away knowing that we will be contacted in a few weeks with an appointment for the scan but we can make arrangements to see the scanner beforehand if we wish to.
The Boy isn’t going to be sedated because the pediatrician has found that sedation often has the reverse effect on ASD children and apparently they go a bit ‘loopy’. I’m not finding a lot of evidence for this to be honest and I feel that it will be too big a challenge for him to keep still so we are going to get another opinion on whether or not he should be sedated.
In the meantime, there are lots of things we can do to prepare him for the scan in order to keep his anxiety to a minimum.
Reading books about hospital visits will give him knowledge of what to expect as much of the anxiety is fear of the unknown so I am trying to find stories which feature an MRI scan.
Youtube has videos specifically for children and MRI scans, with or without sedation. We intend to show these to him over the coming weeks and then he will know exactly what to expect.
I thought it would be an idea to do some practice runs maybe using a big cardboard box that I can make into a scanning machine and we can practice him lying still, Hedwig too!
Using social stories is a great way of introducing new social situations to the child. We are hoping his teachers will work with us as well so that they can address any anxiety he has about the scan when he’s at school.
Keeping it positive
It’s important to talk about hospitals and staff in a positive manner. Me? I hate hospitals. They smell all disenfectanty and stuff and they conjure up memories I wish I didn’t have but I know that I can’t afford for The Boy to see my discomfort, so I do what I’ve done all my life and pretend I’m OK.
We know this will be a massive deal for our son so we’re going to promise him a trip to the Lego store after the scan has been done. Yes, it’s a bribe but it’s also a strategy because he needs incentives to do even the basic stuff and this goes way beyond anything he can comprehend. Nothing he has experienced in his six years comes close to this, not even what he went through during the autism assessment. It’s a big deal and if he manages to go through with it all, I will be so proud of him.
Where The Boy goes, so does his feathered friend and both got a sticker for being brave at the hospital.
Well done The Boy and well done Hedwig.
Have you have been through this with your child? If so, any advice would be appreciated.