Children with Special Needs

Children with special needs often face additional challenges when visiting the hospital for medical or surgical treatment, especially if they have a language or communication disorder or learning disabilities. You may be worried that your child could become distressed and be unsure how well the medical and nursing staff will be able to deal with your child’s particular needs and preferences. It helps to contact the hospital ward in advance of your child’s admission date, as many hospitals have a check list of details to discuss with you, so that they can be ready to look after you and your child when you arrive.

For parents and carers of children with special needs this link to contact a family may be useful before you go to hospital. Here are some other specific suggestions to help prepare the way:

Helping your child prepare for an operation

You can find a more comprehensive article about preparing your child here, but please bear in mind that different hospitals have different procedures and processes in place to help patients through their stay.

Makaton sign language

If your child uses Makaton sign language, they may like to watch a video clip from the BBC CBeebies ‘Something Special’ in which Mr Tumble visits the hospital. This episode may be purchased from iTunes or the complete DVD from the Makaton Charity shop

Symbol time-lines

If your child uses symbol time-lines at school or at home, you might find a hospital admission time-line useful to help your child to prepare for the unfamiliar procedures associated with having an anaesthetic. A time-line and associated flashcards can be downloaded here

Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD)

If your child has autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), you may already use social stories as a way of introducing new social situations. Your child’s school may be able to help you to create a social story suitable for the visit to hospital. The time-line resource available above may assist in helping to create the structure for the social story.

Communication Dos and Don'ts in Autistic Spectrum Disorder

The following guide is designed to improve the experience of people with ASD within the healthcare environment. This is reprinted with the kind permission of Janice Grant (Salford University) and Francis Binns (Royal Manchester Children's Hospital). Communication dos and don'ts in Autistic Spectrum Disorder