Dear Ms. Credi,
On behalf of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT), we would like to thank you for bringing to the light this important topic of conversation in your article, “Special dental care for children with autism,” which discussed services provided by a network of French dentists who offer the two service visit option to families. Visiting dental and medical facilities (or new places in general) can be difficult, stressful, and anxiety provoking for children with autism and their families.
Maintaining healthy dental hygiene is important for all children, and often times a dentist office can be a frightening place for children due to the unfamiliar noises, environment, people, bright lights, physical touch, and the intrusiveness that can accompany routine dental exams. Offering children with autism the opportunity to “get familiar” with the facility and tools they will be exposed to when visiting a dentist may allow children a better opportunity to access the care they need.
Providing children with needed skills is a cornerstone of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA strategies such as shaping, skill building, and desensitization can be implemented prior to the child’s first visit. These strategies enjoy scientific support and should include the collection of performance data to assess progress. Utilizing a variety of such strategies may allow for a child to have a more pleasant experience and for the dental provider to be poised to offer a more successful examination. More information pertaining to interventions used to increase a child’s tolerance to routine dental and medical appointments can be located at the link provided; https://asatonline.org/research-treatment/clinical-corner/cooperating-with-dental-exams/.
Through proper teaching, more and more children can have access to pertinent dental and other medical care. It is our hope the network of French dentists will consider these strategies to further complement their approach. You have highlighted the importance of meeting children where they need to be met in order to help them develop the tools they will need to be successful, and we at ASAT commend you for this.
Jennifer Cote, B.S. and Renee Wozniak, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Association for Science in Autism Treatment