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Special Needs Pediatric Care: Behavior Guidance Strategies

If you’re the parent of a child with special needs who has trouble sitting through dental visits, you’re not alone. Many parents, caregivers, and pediatric dentists have experienced similar issues, so don’t be discouraged. To help make this process easier, Dr. Heba Rashed and the Petite Smiles team have put together some helpful information about special needs pediatric care and how they approach behavior guidance. Our aim is not only to keep your child’s teeth healthy but also to empower you on your journey with them to better oral health!


Desensitization in special needs pediatric care refers to a gradual process of familiarizing a child with aspects of medical care that they may find overwhelming or frightening. The aim is to help them become less sensitive to these situations and thereby reduce their anxiety. By introducing children to medical equipment, noises, and procedures in a gentle and empathetic manner, we can help create a positive environment that facilitates desensitization over time. 

Positive Pre-Visit Imagery

When it comes to special needs pediatric care, positive pre-visit imagery can make all the difference in a child’s experience. This technique involves using visual aids, such as drawings, stories, or videos, to prepare children for their upcoming healthcare appointments. Also, parents can show patients pictures of their dental office and dentist beforehand so that they can better predict what the vibe will be like. 

By showing them what to expect in a gentle, reassuring manner, children are less likely to feel anxious or overwhelmed during their appointments. Instead, they can enter the visit feeling calm and confident, knowing that their caregivers are there to support them every step of the way. 


At the heart of special needs pediatric care is the tell-show-do technique. It’s a simple concept, but one that can make all the difference for children with special needs who may struggle with understanding and communication. In essence, tell-show-do means precisely what it sounds like you tell the child what is going to happen, you show them what you’re going to do, and then you do it. 

This approach can help establish trust and a sense of security between the healthcare provider and the child, allowing for a smoother and more stress-free experience. It’s a compassionate and effective way to provide care to those who need it most.


Similar to tell-show-do, the ask-tell-ask technique can be a powerful tool to ensure effective communication. First, our pediatric dentist asks the child about their understanding of a situation or task. Second, our dentist provides information or direction, telling the child what they need to know. Finally, Dr. Rashed follows up with a second question to ensure understanding. This strategy not only promotes clear communication but also empowers the child to take an active role in their care. 

Visit Petite Smiles for Special Needs Pediatric Care

As your little one grows, understanding their dental care needs may require extra attention to ensure tooth health and proper hygiene habits. However, taking that extra time to develop behavior guidance strategies for your child can be incredibly rewarding when it comes to making their visits as comfortable as possible. 

With patience, support, and a warm and nurturing tone of voice, Dr. Rashed can help her patients navigate through their sensory experiences with greater ease. Get in touch with Petite Smiles to learn more about our special needs pediatric dental care in Lorton, VA.

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