Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Using Social Stories in Emergencies

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 My Sensi had a dental emergency. She had an abscessed tooth and it had to be removed. Luckily since she had to take antibiotics for a few days before the procedure, we were able to work on a social story for her getting her teeth pulled under sedation in the hospital.
Sensi told me "tooth hurts" and was getting into the dental floss. We tried to floss the tooth that hurt and there wasn't anything stuck between her teeth. In fact that tooth was half loose. I looked at her gums, and I saw a angry purplish bruise of sorts on her upper gum. I called the dentist and I made her an appointment for the next morning.
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 We had been to this dental practice just a month prior to have her teeth cleaned. The dentist we saw had recommended crowns, spacers, removal of those crowded teeth, fillings and sealants.  This just seemed like lots of work for a little girl. So we got a second opinion and waited to hear back from our insurance. That dentist was out on maternity leave and we saw Dr. D instead.
The abscess caused the emergency. We couldn't wait; we did negotiate the dental work down to pulling the two problem teeth, fillings and sealants. We also arranged to have the work done in our nearby hospital, so we were somewhat familiar with the surroundings. 
We saw Sensi's speech therapist on Friday, so we shared with her that we were going to have to go to the hospital next week to have her teeth worked on under sedation. 
We heard back from the dentist and the hospital on Monday morning for Sensi to have her dental work done on Tuesday at noon. I arranged for a physical the next morning. We saw her speech therapist again on Monday afternoon. I asked her if she could work up a social story about going to the hospital to have her tooth pulled. This is a facsimile of what she worked on with Sensi Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday morning, we went to Sensi's regular doctor for the physical, then ran an errand and off to the hospital. I showed the social story to the hospital staff, the anesthesiologist and the dental surgeon. Sensi and I had reviewed the social story several times the night before and that morning. She paid attention when I showed it to the doctors and nurses. 
I am happy to say that everything turned out okay. Sensi was excited about being at the hospital and was relaxed and happy up until the mask for the anesthesia being put over her face. Luckily she was asleep pretty quickly. They worked on her for a little over two hours and I made sure that the staff knew that I needed to be close by when Sensi woke up. Coming to from the anesthesia was tough for Sensi, she struggled a bit and we just gave her time, we didn't rush her. She was still a bit out of it for the rest of the day, but she was back to her normal self as soon as she could eat solid food.

Sensi has been thinking about what happened to her quite a bit. I know this because I have been seeing her do her own version of our dental emergency social story:

It is good to know that she understood what was going to happen, so she wasn't as scared as she could have been. I know that even though we did all we could to prepare her and the staff, it was still a difficult experience for her.  You don't need a special app or program, all you need is some paper and pencil, and a reasonable idea of the steps in the upcoming event to illustrate to your child what is going to happen. I am hoping that we won't ever have another emergency like the one we had, but it is good for everyone to know that social stories can be very helpful to your child and to the hospital staff to explain what the expectations are and to confirm the course of events.


  1. I'm sorry she had to go through that but really glad it all ended up on a positive note. You're so right, you don't need expensive apps to do social stories.

    1. We have the final post op check tomorrow. It has ended well. Thanks for reading it.

  2. This is very helpful my friends child is going for extrations she does not have special needs but has a huge fear of the dentist I feel the social story would help thanks for sharing

  3. I am glad you liked it. I hope it is helpful.