“I CAN’T WAIT!” my child yells repetitively, making siren noises and bashing his head with his hands. “I CAN’T WAIT, I CAN’T WAIT, I CAN’T WAIT. “ Now, apparently he has an issue with waiting! Therapists say this is due to “autism”, which of course could be true, or perhaps he inherited his lack of patience from me. (Watching him, as I sit waiting I feel like doing the same thing, screaming I CAN’T WAIT!) Whatever the reason, waiting for any child is tricky, waiting for a child with autism is almost an unbearable torture. The irony is for many children with autism their life is full of appointments, endless therapies, assessments and medical appointments and before each of these they have to wait! This causes meltdowns for the child but even worse: the anxiety, build up, dread and exhaustion of having to deal with this, often daily, is even worse for the Mum. So having had 3 children, 2 with special needs and 2 with medical conditions, here are my top tips for waiting for an appointment.
Top Tips for Waiting for an Appointment with Children with Autism
1. Where possible DON’T wait. It can be very challenging for children with ADHD, Autism or other behavioural challenges to have to wait (or in fact any child), so if you can avoid it, do. e.g. I usually try and make our medical appointments first thing in the morning, so no-one is before us, meaning “waiting rooms” are empty and the professionals aren’t running late yet. If that is not possible, I have a relationship with our “medical team”, and I will keep my kids outside or in the car and they SMS me when they are ready, so we can walk straight in.
2. Don’t call it waiting!! If I say we have to wait for the Dr, we will get the response mentioned above…..”I CAN’T WAIT”. If I say, its play time until the Dr….wow… we don’t even realise we are waiting. We do not call it the “waiting room”, because that will seriously not go down well, we call it the play area, toy room, fun room etc. I mean a whole room, just for waiting… in my kids world that is a room of torture.
3. Make it Fun!!! Remember, if you are feeling anxious, getting stressed, pacing up and down, playing on your phone, your child or children will pick up on that and feed off your stress. If you (even pretend), to be relaxed, be engaged with them, have fun, they won’t even notice the time go by.
4. Snacks, snacks, snacks and more snacks! It is amazing how a little picnic of snacks (especially a special treat) can pass the time, alleviate anxiety and make the “waiting” a little brighter.
5. Games/Activities. As many of our children will not be amused by games, books or activities provided in waiting rooms. Bring your own. We have a special pack full of games, stickers, colouring that is ONLY used at these times. This makes it fun and exciting. For one of my kids he has a DS and he is only allowed to play it when we are waiting for an appointment, (or on a travel trip.) He loves his DS and so this makes him really excited to go to an appointment because he finally has his DS to play on. He often wants to leave home early so he has extra time to play on it. Great Incentive – imagine your child wanting to go to an appointment!
6. Bring everything and the kitchen sink!! Remember you do not know how your day will go, how long your wait will be, if plans will change. I know when we go to the hospital for a check up, often it can turn into blood tests, or seeing different departments and suddenly what should have been an hours appointment is a day visit. So if you need continence products for your kids, special food or drinks, medicine at certain times… make sure you have it all and more. This will relieve your stress while you wait. As the scouts say BE PREPARED.
So, they are my top tips for waiting for an appointment. Now how about waiting in a queue e.g. at the supermarket, post office, bank. My advice, take your child, tell them they have to wait and let them scream the house down…. usually mine clears the room within seconds. Lets face it a screaming child is not good for business or customers, so we get right to the front of the queue…ok I know this is not politically correct or perhaps sound advice for the child, however surely we get some benefits even if it is just skipping a queue. Good Luck with Waiting.