The key to helping someone with Autism cope with the stress of surgery is understanding their personality. While there may be a few fundamental similarities between them, individuals with Autism behave and interact very differently from one another in any given situation. There’s no catch-all piece of advice that is going to work for everyone, but there are a few steps you can take to better understand how one can help a person with Autism through the process of surgery. This article will give a few tips on how to understand and improve the comfort of people with Autism who are undergoing surgery.
Help your friend or family member mentally prepare for the surgery, while also making sure the hospital accommodates them as much as possible. Hospitals have paid out millions for malpractice and neglect, so be sure that every precaution is taken by the doctors and nurses to ensure the patient is safe under their care.
Gather as Much Information as Possible
Individuals with Autism can be highly inquisitive. Make sure you know all the details about the surgery, such as what, when, where, and why. Knowing all the ins and outs of the surgery will help you develop a plan and schedule for the days leading up to and following the surgery.
Discuss With the Medical Staff the Person’s Needs
Provide a detailed list of important information about the individual with Autism—-triggers, likes/dislikes, communication method, behaviors, or ways to de-escalate certain behaviors. Any information that will help the doctors and nurses accommodate and comfort their patient is useful.
Talk With Your Friend or Family Member About the Surgery
Be sure to cover all the key details about the surgery and what’s going to happen on the day and the day after. Using social stories has proven to be very effective in helping people with Autism process information. They are used often for things like a trip to the doctor’s office.
Support Them Emotionally
Do everything you can to validate their feelings and listen to their fears. There might be moments where you have to tell a little white lie to keep them from being too afraid—-and that’s okay.
Gather Activities Related to Their Interests for Their Recovery Period
Make sure they have something to do in bed during their stay in the hospital. Whatever they’re interested in, have something related to it on hand. It will distract them and comfort them when they wake up. You will have your hands full after they wake up, so make sure to take care of this before the surgery.
On the Day of the Surgery
Make sure to be present and prepared on the day of the surgery, and follow a few important steps.
Provide Comfort and Distraction
Give them whatever affection and comfort they normally like. If you have a way you can distract them, then do your best to get their minds away from the surgery.
Calm Without Restraining
When the nurse is putting in the IV, it might be triggering. Never restrain a person with Autism, it will only make it work. Try calming them down beforehand and distracting them as it's put in.
Be Present When They Wake Up
Make sure you are by their bedside when they wake up. They will likely be very groggy, but they might panic if there’s no one familiar around.
After the Surgery
Closely monitoring their diet and medicine intake after the surgery is crucial in their recovery.
Create a Post-Op Schedule
If you can, make a schedule for them that outlines what they need to do each day to recover. A visual of this will help them stay on track with medication. It also might help to have some activities, like a walk in the park or “movie time” included to give them something to look forward to.
Make Sure They Rest
Make sure they rest as much as the doctor ordered. This is where all the activities, books, movies, etc. will come in handy that you prepared before the surgery. Many high-functioning people on the spectrum are very active, so you’ll want to be over-prepared for this.
Monitor Diet and Medications
If possible, try to be present each time they take their medicine and monitor closely that they’re following the doctor’s orders.
They may become more “needy” than usual during this time. Try to be patient and remember a time when you were very scared or upset about something, and treat them how you would want to be treated.
The recovery process might be a difficult process, but if you stick to a schedule and keep them busy, it should go by faster. Look at it as an opportunity to bond and build trust between you.