Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
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Parry, JA;Newton, T;Linehan, C;Ryan, C
JDR Clinical & Translational Research
Dental Visits for Autistic Children: A Qualitative Focus Group Study of Parental Perceptions
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Introduction: Patient groups who pose behavioral challenges during dental attendance may be offered more restricted dental treatment options. Unsuccessful participation with dental visit tasks and demands has been commonly reported for autistic children.Objectives: This study aimed to examine parental perceptions of difficulties associated with dental attendance and oral care for autistic children and young adults, to highlight reported challenges and potential adaptations, and to identify interventions that will encourage positive experiences of dental attendance.Methods: Qualitative data were gathered through 2 focus groups with parents of primary school and secondary school pupils with autism, interviewed in separate groups. Questions about parents' perceptions of dental attendance and oral care were asked. The groups were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The transcripts were analyzed and initial codes generated. Development of subthemes and themes followed a process of thematic analysis.Results: Parental perceptions, which confirmed data from other studies, included the need for understanding and training, awareness of sensory issues, recognition of the individuality of autistic traits, time and clarity for communication, and factors affecting the confidence of parents to advocate in the clinical environment. Focus group participants identified the critical value of empathizing with an autistic perspective and highlighted the importance of positive oral health messages. They also noted the lack of understanding regarding the complexity of altering self-imposed, ritualistic dietary regimes and attempting to enact good dental preventive habits for their children.Conclusions: Analysis of data from parent focus groups provided a greater understanding of the needs and responsivity required for successful dental visits for autistic children and young adults. A range of potential interventions was identified and incorporated within a model of needs. Interventions based on Partnership Working, System Change, and Training of Dental Staff could be effective in reducing challenges posed by dental attendance for many children with autism.Knowledge Transfer Statement: Sensory sensitivities, communication difficulties, comorbid intellectual disability, and dental anxiety are barriers to successful participation during dental attendance for autistic children. This research proposes that interventions supporting Partnership Working, System Change, and Training of Dental Staff can reduce challenges posed by dental attendance. The model of interventions developed as part of this project can be used by oral care teams to help reduce barriers and improve the success of dental visits for autistic children.
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