How to navigate hospital visits with a child with SEND needs

Going to hospital is not nice at any time and there are many places we'd rather be, however there are times in life when these things just can't be avoided.

All children can find these visits difficult, often having to wait for long periods of time to be seen and not having as much freedom as normal to run around as they need. It can increase stress levels on them and sometimes exaccerbate behaviours and reduce coping mechanisms and therefore can require more attention and care from the adults with them.

If you child has additional needs, a disability or behavioural isssues then these situations can be quite intense.

So what can you do as a parent carer to get through these times as smoothly as possible?

Well, there are several things. Firstly, if you do have time to prepare before your attendance make sure you are ready with a few things that could make the process smoother.

If you can take any things that help calm your child - their favourite small toy, pacifier, sensory item that helps them calm down and focus or possibly an ipad or CD player so they can access some form of entertainment. Some snacks and drinks for them and you can help things along with a change of clothes and any continence items required for their comfort.

Ensure you and they are comfortable in what you are wearing and also your footwear. Standing around for long periods or maybe having to care for your child or run after them will require practical items that you can move in.

Apart from the practical things that you can take the most important thing you can bring is the right mindset. To remain calm and focused is essential. It is important that we can manage our emotions and energy as our children can feel this and will be affected if we are not in the right space.

Deep breathing may sound simple to do but it is like any skill - it takes practice to master until it soon becomes second nature. Breathwork will calm you down and help you stay present.

Retain a positive focus. Know that everyone is doing their best and remain patient as much as you can.

Communicate your needs to staff. It is pointless getting upset or stressed if things are taking too long and your child is finding it hard to cope. Let people know how the situation is and your concerns. You will find that more often than not people will be happy to try and help where they can, no one wants to see someone upset or struggling. At the same time no one is a mind reader and they cannot help if you don't let them know.

Keep focused on your child. Disregard anyone else that may drain your energy or be negative about your situation.