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Debbie Connelly

Debbie Connelly, Improving Health

The dentist chair is a fairly scary thing for most children but it’s often far more traumatic for children with Autism.

The team at Bridgeton Health Centre set about exploring the issues raised by parents and came up with an action plan that has resulted in some quite spectacular changes for everyone concerned.

Debbie Connelly explained that autistic children perceived the surgery as “cluttered” and that explanations of what would happen when they go to the dentist and reassuring words were simply not effective.

The team set about de-cluttering as a first move and then went on to create a whole new style of environment and provide a suite of bespoke communications tools for parents to use with their children before each visit to the dentist.

Talking picture books were developed which parents could borrow before a visit to familiarise children with the surgery and staff. The book features photographs of the surgery, its reception and the dentist – it features large footprints in the book which are replicated in the surgery itself.

This innovative approach was launched in May 2011 and the feedback from parents and children has been hugely positive.

On behalf of the Bridgeton team Debbie said: "We are really blown away with winning a Chairman’s award."

Below: Debbie and colleague Lynn Farren receive their award from the Cabinet Secretary.