Skip to main content

COVID-19 Advisory: Visitor restrictions are in place for all Phoenix Children’s locations. Masks are required for all visitors and for patients ages 2+. For more information, visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.

Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

April 07, 2021, Allan, Carla C., PhD ,
Preparing Your Child for a Doctor Visit: 10 Strategies that Work for Children with Autism
Autism Research at Phoenix Children’s Hospital

Coming to the hospital can be exciting, boring, and scary for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. There are new sights and sounds. You may have to wait in line. There are new people and new routines to follow. And even though there are doctors, nurses, and staff that know a lot about how to help with your child’s medical condition, they may not know as much about helping your child cope with a hospital visit. That’s where you come in: You know your child better than anyone else. You know what they like and what scares them. Together, we can make the visit more enjoyable so that your child can get back to being a kid.

Here are 10 tips to prepare your child for a hospital visit: 

  1. Download our Simply Sayin’ app to help explain medical terms and procedures in a kid-friendly format. It’s free in the App Store and on Google Play. 
  2. Call the medical team before your child’s appointment and let them know what works best for your child. We will do our best to partner with you to make the trip successful. 
  3. If your child is going to be admitted to our hospital, consider asking for support from our Child Life Specialists, who are there to help your child throughout their hospital stay. Child Life Specialists help children prepare for surgeries and procedures. They can create reward charts that are specific to your child!
  4. Find out what will happen at the office visit and consider using a visual support tool, like this one from Autism Speaks, to help your child understand what to expect before their visit.  
  5. Use a visual support tool to create a First Then board that helps your child get through hard parts of the day. First Then boards help kids understand that they will earn something they like after they complete a task. For example, if getting dressed is difficult every day, start using the First Then board a few days before your appointment to make the day of your appointment easier. 
  6. Practice waiting at home. Use a ‘wait’ card paired with a visual timer on your phone. Start small (10-20 seconds) and gradually work your way up to several minutes. Use praise and rewards to help form new habits! 
  7. Create a visual schedule that helps your child understand the steps of a hospital visit. As you go through each one, cross it off. Include opportunities for activities they like along the way. 
  8. Bring ‘stop’ cards to help your child understand boundaries, like the exam room door. Do your best to keep your child from escaping the exam room. 
  9. Pack a sensory toolkit and bring it with you. Include items that help your child cope with noises, boredom, and stress such as headphones, tablet, favorite toys, snacks (if eating is ok), blankets or other comfort items like stuffed animals, fidget toys or sensory chews, and rewards. 
  10. Do your best to take care of yourself and your child ahead of time by keeping a normal routine in the days before your visit.
Share this page