Having blood drawn can be overwhelmingly stressful for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Between the bright clinical environment, the busyness of the waiting rooms, and of course the dreaded needles and tight bands, the whole experience can be overwhelming.
Often it will take multiple technicians to obtain a single blood sample from a kid on the spectrum. Sometimes sedation is required. And when families put off blood tests in anticipation of the trauma it will bring their kid with ASD, there’s the risk that important diagnoses will be delayed.
One in 68 kids in North America has an ASD diagnosis. While symptoms vary in type and intensity, most kids on the spectrum are extremely sensitive to stimulating environments—places that are loud, bright, and have distinctive smells—and uncomfortable with unfamiliar experiences. Some also dislike people entering their personal space—and when those people are clutching a syringe, of course, the panic intensifies. And some kids with ASD have verbal challenges, so they may be limited in how well they can express their anxieties through words.
The good news for kids with ASD and their parents is that LifeLabs, Canada’s largest community diagnostic laboratory, just launched its Serving Patients with Autism Program. It’s the first of its kind in Canada, and currently available in clinics across Ontario and British Columbia.
Endorsed by Autism Canada and created based on feedback from members of the autism community, the program has set in place protocols for collecting blood from patients of all ages with ASD. And all staff have undergone specialized training to better understand the unique needs of clients on the spectrum.
Among the calming tools and techniques offered to help take the stress out of having blood drawn, are soothing light options, videos for distraction, and downloadable storyboards to prepare kids for what to expect in advance of their visit. If this sounds like just what the doctor ordered for your kid, Lifelabs recommends calling ahead and asking for an Autism Program Appointment.