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Going to the doctor: A guide for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism South Africa
Going to the doctor: A guide for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
By Emma Jones

Touch (Tactile System)

14282442-children-at-a-reception-at-the-doctorSome people with an ASD are not very sensitive – hypo-sensitive- to touch. This means that they may have a high threshold to pain or temperature and do not mind heavier pressure when touched. This can cause difficulty when being examined by the doctor as the person with autism may not appear to be in pain but could, for example, have broken a sit na die res 

The person with an ASD may be unable to decode the different body sensations to recognise it as pain.
They can display unusual responses to pain such as laughing, humming or taking their clothes off which may make it difficult for the doctor to recognise and identify the problem. It may be that change in behaviour is the only indicator that a person with autism is in pain.

On the other hand, a person with autism may be very sensitive – hyper-sensitive-to touch. They may experience the slightest touch as uncomfortable or even painful and will therefore withdraw from touch. This can cause difficulties when a doctor is trying to conduct a physical examination. Materials used could also be a problem: for instance, the paper sheet on the examination table, cotton wool or plasters may cause particular discomfort.

Sensory difficulties - Lights

25420463-lawrenceville-ga-usa--november-23-2013--a-mixture-of-discarded-light-bulbs-to-be-recycled-fills-a-boSensitivity to certain lightning can be a particular problem for people with autism. For instance strip fluorescent lighting can be experienced as painful and distracting. It has also been found that the use of pen lights can trigger seizures in those susceptible 20-30% of people with ASD.  ( Kagan-Kushnir, Roberts and Snead, 2005)


Fear of the unexpected

18736170-doctor-giving-child-injection-in-doctor-s-officeAlthough a visit to the GP can provide the structure that people with autism require in that there is a definite routine involved, it can still cause anxiety.

This may be the due to the fact that in most cases it is not known exactly what a doctor will do. The unstructured time in the waiting room and the other patients present can be difficult for a person with an ASD. The unfamiliarity of the consultation room and equipment used can seem quite daunting.

Alternatively, negative experiences from the past and associations with pain can influence the future associations and fear of the experience of a person with ASD.




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