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For many of us, the idea of seeing needles or blood – never mind actually getting blood drawn – can leave us in a state of anxiety. But for parents and carers with autistic children, getting a blood test can be even more challenging for everyone involved.
Many with autism have trouble understanding things that are new to them, like people, places and events (like getting blood taken). Often when they’re scared, anxious or find themselves in a situation they can’t understand, their response can be unpredictable, extreme and even volatile.
At YourGP, we’re fully aware of the anxieties associated with autistic behaviours, and when drawing blood, we take the time to try and offer the right environment, for all involved, prioritising the child’s needs.
Recently, a family visited our children’s clinic as part of their appointment with Dr Lorene Amet, a professor with over 15 years’ experience in the field of autism and director of Autism Treatments Plus (AT+).
The family were seen by our resident paramedic, Lynn, who administers the majority of our childhood vaccines and is responsible for collecting blood from most of our patients, especially the younger ones.
They were so impressed with the service that their feedback about our children’s clinic led to a meeting between Dr Amet, whose role also includes Autism Development Officer across two Scottish local authorities, and our Business Manager, Jacqui Mitchell, resulting in us moving forward together in this challenging field.
We asked Lynn what she felt she had done that impressed the family, how we try to help relieve anxiety for autistic children, and why focusing on children’s needs is so important to us as a complete environment.
She explains: “I always prioritise the patient and their needs, whether this is an autistic child or not. The patient is the most important person in the room at that time – nobody else.
“While I’m aware of family and carers and their needs, if their behaviour or anxieties are going to cause distress to the child, it’s preferable they don’t watch or try to assist.
“Children pick up signals very quickly and if there are going to be needles around I can’t risk anyone being hurt.
“However, involving parents or carers is my preference as it’s their child and they know their needs better than anyone and I need that support in the room.”
“It’s essential to understand the specific needs of the child,” explains Lynn. “If we don’t, they could have an awful experience and someone could get hurt.
“Before we start any invasive treatment with any child, we need to ask ourselves some questions; how well does that individual child communicate, how much can they understand, can they sit still for a period of time, do they prefer to sit on the floor, do they need to wander round the environment first?
“Parents and carers already know all these essential facts but we don’t – and we really need to. Therefore effective communication with everyone is the key.”
At YourGP, we offer a calm, friendly environment for children to come to. Our practice has a relaxed environment and our staff genuinely welcome children of all ages. As most are parents themselves, they’re fully aware of how different each child can be.
We can accommodate a child who is very noisy at a clinic time where they won’t disturb others, which is usually what parents and carers worry about – a stress that quickly transfers to the child.
We can also make the appointment at a time where the child can wander and familiarise themselves with their surroundings. We’re able to meet so many needs – as long as we know about them beforehand.
If your child has had a negative experience during a visit to a doctor, or you get anxious at the thought of your child getting their blood drawn, arrange an appointment at our children’s clinic, under the watchful eye of Dr Joanne McCrone, using our online booking form.
You can also call us on 0131 225 5656 or email our reception team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you are welcome to visit our clinic in Dean Village in the heart of Edinburgh’s west end.
Dr Myskow was friendly and understanding. I felt I was listened to and that I was given a thorough check over before deciding on any treatment. I wasn’t rushed at all which was nice.