By Megan Amodeo
Going to the doctor for routine visits, vaccinations and sick visits is something most people experience. Even if you aren’t prone to getting sick, you still visit doctors for injuries and check-ups. Since I am a mom of three, I have been to numerous medical facilities for everything under the sun. We’ve had sore throats, coughs and all the other common childhood ailments. I am proud to say that in my eighteen and a half years as a mom, we have not had any broken bones (knock on wood).
When my daughters were infants and toddlers, I felt as if I had set up camp in the doctor’s office.
Since my girls are only two years apart, there were back to back visits constantly. The well baby visits alone were often every few weeks. By now, as you might imagine, I feel like a pro when it comes to taking my kids to the doctor. I even recently started allowing my 18-year-old to go to the doctor alone.
As a mom on the spectrum, I did not always feel confident and prepared when it came time for the doctor’s office visits. When my oldest daughter was born, I would become anxiety ridden just thinking about going to the doctor. What if something was wrong? What if I forgot to ask my mile-long list of questions?
Of course, by my second child, and then my third child, I no longer had time to worry about what could go wrong. I was just trying to make it to the appointments on time. My youngest and oldest daughters were diagnosed as being on the spectrum at ages three and seven respectively. My middle daughter has ADHD and a Tic disorder.
As you can probably guess, doctor’s visits were chaotic at best.
As soon as my two daughters on the spectrum realized what going to the doctor meant, I had a battle on my hands. It was like wrangling cats. Both would have nuclear meltdowns accompanied by running. My middle daughter would feed off all the excitement and become frenzied as well.
Being autistic myself, these events would coax my anxiety and sensory issues.
By the time we made it to the doctor appointment, it looked like we had been in a Wizard of Oz style twister. The nurses would always joke about how stressed I looked. Then they would smile and say how I handled everything like a champ. I don’t think I ever saw myself as the queen of calmness and serenity.
I just did what I had to do to take care of my brood. I had to learn to keep my autistic characteristics in check as much as possible. This wasn’t always easy. As my girls got older, they were not as easy to take to the doctor. When they were small, I could get them strapped into their car seats and zip over to the doctor. Once they understood what vaccines were, I had to become more inventive if I wanted to make it to the doctor before sundown.
I am definitely not one for bribing my kids, but when it came to yearly check-ups, I had no other choice.
Luckily for me, this was about the same time Target came out with their dollar bargain section. My girls soon learned that if they went to the doctor, and did not run out the door screaming, they would get a trip to the “isle” as it came to be known in my home. The “isle” held wonders beyond imagination for my girls.
I won’t lie and tell you that every doctor visit from then on was a piece of cake. There were still a lot of tears, and a few escape attempts, but overall things went much more smoothly. The “isle” also helped me in ways I could not have predicted.
Knowing that I had a resolution to their fears, I was able to have less anxiety about the visits.
Having less anxiety helped my own sensory issues. I won’t say that I eventually looked forward to the visits, but they no longer heightened every ounce of my own autism. I could remind myself that there was an end to the experience. I could remind my girls that there was an end to the visit. This provided relief for everyone.
Going to the doctor can be stressful for anyone. For those of us on the spectrum it can be anxiety producing. It can heighten our emotions and leave us feeling overwhelmed and drained. It can be difficult for us to voice how we are feeling and what we need to calm down. By providing a definite end activity at the conclusion of medical visits, my family feels better about going to the doctor.
Megan Amodeo is an autistic stay-at-home mom with 3 beautiful daughters, two on the autism spectrum and one with ADHD. She’s been married to her neurotypical husband for almost 20 years. Prior to having children, Megan worked in special education. Today, she shares her life experiences and advice on Geek Club Books blog and in Zoom Autism Magazine.
Read more articles on “How Self-Advocates are Changing Health Care” in Zoom Autism Magazine, Issue 17:
Feeling Comfortable and Understood by My Medical Community by Chloe Rothschild
Includes Chloe’s Tips for Self-Advocacy in Health Care
- Why I Became Passionate About Autistic Advocacy in Health Care by Lydia Wayman
A Letter from our Guest Editor
- A Physician/Mom’s Tips on Making the Most of Your Office Visit by Ann Oldendorf, MD
- Health Care Self-Care on the Spectrum by Delaine Swearman
- How Serious are Health Care Issues in the Autistic Community? by Campbell Teague
- Cummings and Goings: Hope and a Fighting Determination! by Conner Cummings
- Showing My Body the Grace It Deserves by Gretchen McIntire
- THE VIEW FROM HERE: A Glimmer of Hope for Those Who Struggle by Daniel Derrico
Discover more Zoom Issues:
- Issue 13: Family
- Issue 14: Trailblazers
- Issue 15: Powerful Women
- Issue 16: Traveling the Spectrum Way!
- Archived issues on the Zoom Home Page