Melbourne mother Leah Dean knows as well as anyone that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is not simple for young autistic children like her son Alexander, 13.
Loud noises, crowds and bright lights in vaccination centres – coupled with the uncertainty of a brand-new experience – can make autistic children very anxious. But with the help of a set of special step-by-step instructions called a “social script”, Alexander was recently able to successfully have his two vaccinations.
Autism advocacy body Amaze in partnership with National Disability Services and supported by the Victorian Government have just released a new set of social scripts for younger autistic children to help with the 5-11-year-old vaccination roll-out.
Social scripts are documents that include photos and simple text to show autistic people what they may see and experience during a new experience, aiming to reduce anxiety and concerns.
“Thinking about having Alex vaccinated was a bit concerning at first as I didn’t know how he would handle the process,” Dean said.
Dean said the social script prepared Alex for the steps he had to follow during his vaccination appointment such as wearing a mask and having his temperature taken.
“It also prepared him for how he might feel afterwards, which meant he experienced less anxiety.
“The social script also gave choices he could make such as wearing a hat and sunglasses to the appointment to help him cope better with light, and ear muffs or headphones to help manage sound. The Amaze social script meant that we didn’t need to think of everything, we simply needed to personalise it to our situation.”
Amaze CEO Jim Mullan said the organisation has received government funding to develop the scripts as well as a suite of other resources to help autistic people of all ages get the COVID-19 vaccination.
“Preparation for a new experience is crucial for autistic people, which is why social scripts are so important,” Mullan said.
“We now have seven COVID-19 social scripts for different age groups and different settings, and feedback has been extremely positive about them all.”
National Disability Services CEO Laurie Leigh said the organisation greatly values the partnership with Amaze and the Victorian Government in supporting children with disabilities to get vaccinated.
“These social scripts are an engaging and valuable resource for all children and young people, carers and families in understanding what is involved in vaccination and the different support options available to them,” Leigh said.
“NDS would like to sincerely thank all who participated in this important project. NDS continues to prioritise the safety of all people with disability and the disability workforce and remain committed to supporting the vaccination rollout.”
Visit the Amaze website to download the social scripts and access other information and resources to help autistic people access the COVID-19 vaccination.
Anyone seeking information on how to get support to get vaccinated, can contact the Amaze Autism Connect national helpline on 1300 308 699 to speak to an autism advisor.
Original content from Third Sector Australia. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.
Nina Alvarez is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel. Her interests include writing, particularly about the healthcare sector and the many ways it can improve to further benefit people from all walks of life.