Having a child with Neuro-Developmental challenges means that practically EVERYTHING is harder. It also means that sometimes you have to do things they are NOT going to understand but are necessary for understanding and monitoring their medical status.
Blood draws are one of those events. I have never met a parent who had zero anxiety about taking their child in for a blood draw. And often, the first attempt fulfills their fearful vision. It is not unusual to hear stories of a 40 pound child needing at least three adults to hold them down while getting a blood draw done – and having those adults exhausted after the procedure is complete.
No parent wants to see their child hurting and yet we also want to figure out how to better support our kids medically if they are unable to tell us how they are feeling. Blood labs can give us so much good information about our children’s health status so they are one of the first tools that many integrative practitioners will order.
Here are some tips that I’ve developed and collected over the years that may help you. And when I say I’ve developed them, I mean from personal experience. My son’s first blood draw required three techs and three adults to get the job done. There was lots of screaming and lots crying. BUT, it got better and now my son doesn’t require anyone holding him (and he’s 170 pounds so I don’t even want to think about how that would go!!)
1. The biggest challenge is that our kids don’t know what to expect. They have difficulty visualizing things they have never experienced – even if they have great expressive and receptive language. Find some Youtube videos of kids getting their blood drawn so that they can SEE the entire procedure. Make sure you find a video that has a calm and relaxed child because you want to use this video as a model for your child. Visit the lab in person prior to the actual draw date and allow the child to be there with zero pressure.
2. Do the pre-work with the lab before the actual draw. Find out what the lab facility looks like. Take pictures to show your child. Usually a bed is the best place to start because you likely will need to hold your child down for their own safety. Ask the lab if you can make an appointment so you don’t have to wait very long. Ask the lab to assign the most experienced tech. Ask the lab what YOU can do for them to help this process.
3. Determine what is soothing for your child. Do they like heavy pressure? Maybe bring a weighted blanket along. Do they like singing? Be prepared to sing to them while they have the procedure. Do they prefer silence over talking? Request that everyone in the room be as quiet as possible. Does your child work for rewards? Let your child know that they will get a special reward after the draw and make sure they can have it immediately after the draw.
4. Bring another adult to help you. Regardless of how efficient an office is, you will still have to wait. I would always have another adult to be with my son and to keep him entertained while I waited for our turn and/or dealt with paperwork issues. In the beginning, I actually had my son wait in the car and I called on my cell phone when it was time for the procedure.
5. Ask your doctor for some numbing cream such as Lidocaine. This topical ointment can help reduce sensory overload by decreasing the feeling on the arm where the needle will be inserted. Most numbing agents take about 30-40 minutes to become fully active so you must consider timing when using numbing cream.
6. Be prepared energetically that this is going to be frightening for your child on some level. While we hate for our kids to be frightened, there are some things that they still need to do. If you are sad/frightened/upset they will pick up on that and it will feel worse for them. They are looking to you for guidance so be calm and strong for them.
With some practice, you will be able to make procedures like this less scary. ~ Amy Y.