Dillon's Big Day

Brave Learner Faces Surgery with the Help of Social Story

OPAC Dillon after surgery

For children with autism, sometimes facing the unknown can be their biggest challenge. New people, new places, and new experiences can be frightening and lead to outbursts. That is just what one of our learners from the Olympic Peninsula Autism Center (OPAC) faced recently.

Dillon* has had a lot of surgeries in his young life. The procedures made him nervous and frightened, often leading to Dillon becoming very physical and aggressive with doctors, nurses, and even his family members. When the staff at OPAC learned that Dillon had another surgery scheduled to repair his feet, legs, and eyes, they deployed one of their greatest tools to help him and his family succeed: the social story.

Social stories are used to help individuals with autism prepare for social interaction and public events. They learn beforehand what to expect, and recite that information until the people, places, and steps of an event are no longer a mystery. For Dillon, that meant talking about all of the steps that you take before and after having a major surgery. These are things that may seem commonplace to someone without autism, but can be unnerving and lead to anxiety for children and adults on the spectrum. Dillon and his therapist Nick, worked hard to perfect his social story. Nick worked with Dillon’s Grandma to get pictures of their family, to show who would be with him and walk him through some of the details of what to expect.  All along the way he was promised tokens and toys for good behavior – things to look forward to throughout the procedure.

On the day of the surgery, Dillon’s social story paid off. His Grandma said, “Dillon’s surgery went very well, and he was a model patient. The social story was invaluable!” Everything was just as Dillon’s social story predicted. Because there were no surprises, there were no problems with aggressive behavior towards nurses and doctors. Dillon returned home after a successful surgery and is healing well. He returned to OPAC last week happy, healthy, and ready to continue learning.

*Dillon’s name has been changed for this story.

The Olympic Peninsula Autism Center provides one-on-one ABA therapy to treat one of mankind’s most puzzling conditions. To learn more about OPAC, click here.

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