Kids with autism miss out

Many children with autism are missing out on routine care such as dental check-ups and haircuts because of their condition, according to experts.

Telethon Kids Institute autism researcher Andrew Whitehouse said there were ordinary aspects of life that most people took for granted but could be highly challenging for children with autism.

Professor Whitehouse is speaking at an Autism West symposium being held in Fremantle tomorrow and Saturday.

Speakers will discuss the latest in research, education, diagnosis, management of challenging behaviour and transitioning to adulthood.

Professor Whitehouse will present findings from a Perth survey of more than 100 families, which looked at how children with autism often struggled to access basic health services such as GP and dental consultations.

The study found that 20 per cent of children with autism attending a dentist had to have a general anaesthetic because it was too distressing if they were conscious.

“Through no fault of theirs, dentists often don’t have the necessary skills to deal with kids with autism, but that’s a really big thing if your child has to have a GA for a routine dental appointment,” he said.

“We also found that going to the hairdresser can be a nightmare.”

Professor Whitehouse said the institute was considering developing an app that could show the sights and sounds of places such as dental surgeries to try to better prepare children about what to expect.

It could also help dentists and hairdressers understand the challenges faced by children with autism as well as those with intellectual and physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy.