Picture Stories: Tips for Parents
While the goal of our picture stories is to tell your child what to expect, there may not be a picture for everything that your child will experience with us. We recommend that you remind your child that they may go to a different exam room than the one in the picture, and of course, that a different staff person may help them. In addition, our staff is trained to support your child if he/she is having difficulty. This may mean that some of the steps in the sequence are done in a different order than the way they are shown in our stories. If you think that your child will have difficulty if the steps in the story are changed, please let us know and we will make every effort to follow them as exactly as possible.
All of the sequences can be downloaded or printed for your child. We will also have hard copies available at your child’s appointment that he/she can review there. Below are several ways that you can help your child to use these sequences:
- Review the sequence yourself, to ensure that you understand what will happen. If you are not sure about a step, call the department where your child’s visit will be.
- Tell your child why he/she is going to the doctor (e.g. “You are going to the doctor because your arm/belly/leg is hurt,” or “You are going to the doctor because you need to have a check-up to make sure that you are healthy.”)
- If your child has his/her own calendar at home, mark the doctor’s appointment on the calendar. Each day leading up to the appointment, you can show your child when the appointment will be.
- Review the sequence with your child, beginning 3-7 days before the appointment. If you are not sure when to start to review the sequence, ask your child’s teacher or one of his/her medical providers. If your child has difficulty understanding sequences, show him/her still photos of where he/she will be going for the appointment. Photos that are good to show include the parking garage or valet, outside of the building, waiting room, and exam room.
- Encourage your child to ask questions, and try to answer them as best you can. Also encourage the child to review the sequence on his/her own.
- Encourage your child to identify parts of the appointment that might be stressful for him/her, and work with your child to develop coping strategies that will help at these times. Your child’s teacher or medical provider may also be able to help you to learn coping strategies to use with your child.
If you can, practice some of the steps with your child before the appointment. Some of the things you can practice are:
- Standing with your back against the wall to measure height
- Standing on a scale to measure weight
- Briefly tie a scarf around your child’s upper arm to show him/her what a blood pressure cuff or tourniquet feels like. *Make sure you supervise your child closely when you do this so that your child does not get hurt!
- If you have a toy doctor kit at home, you can use this to show your child some of the things that the doctor might do in his/her exam. The doctor’s exam might include:
- Listening to your child’s heart or chest, checking his/her ears, looking in his/her mouth, and feeling his/her wrist for a pulse.
- If your child likes to pretend, suggest that your child pretend to be the doctor and examine you or a stuffed animal.
- Use action figures, dolls, or stuffed animals to act out the sequence.
- Practice using coping strategies during stressful parts of the appointment.
- Choose a just a few things to practice based on what you think will be most effective for your child. You don’t need to practice everything.
- If your child does not respond to a strategy after 2-3 tries, try a different one.
- If your child shows signs of distress while practicing, stop the practice session and try again later.