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. “
So, apparently he has an issue with waiting!
Therapists say this is due to his autism, which of course could be true, or perhaps he inherited his lack of patience from me. Whatever the reason, waiting for any child is tricky, waiting for a child with autism is almost an unbearable torture.
The irony is that for many children with autism their life is full of medical appointments, endless therapies and assessments and before each of these they have to wait! This can lead to meltdowns for the child and anxiety, stress and exhaustion for the parent. So having had three children, two with special needs and two with medical conditions, here are my top tips for waiting for an appointment.
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. For example, I usually try to 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 for us, so we can walk straight in.
Don’t call it waiting
If I say we have to wait for the doctor, we will get the response mentioned above…..”I CAN’T WAIT”. If I say, it’s play time until the doctor….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 or fun room.
I mean a whole room, just for waiting, you might as well just call it a torture chamber.
Make it Fun
Remember, if you are feeling anxious, getting stressed, pacing up and down, looking at 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.
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.
As many of our children will not be amused by games, books or activities provided in waiting rooms, bring your own instead.
We have a special pack of games, stickers, colouring etc 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!
Bring everything and the kitchen sink
Remember, you do not know how your day will go, how long your wait will be or if plans will change. I know that 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 hour long 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, these are my top tips for waiting for an appointment.
Now, what 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, we don’t end up waiting as a screaming child is not good for business or customers…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. (joke!)
Good luck with waiting.
Sophie Cole is the mother of three children, two with diagnosed disabilities and medical conditions