Taking the Work Out of Blood Work: A Parent's Guide


Boy Relaxing

Why It Matters

When children with ASD think about going to the doctor, many become worried about the visit. Blood draws can cause a child with ASD to become even more anxious since they are not always part of his or her regular doctor’s visits. You can help by teaching your child simple relaxation techniques.

Five Relaxation Techniques for Children

1. Deep Breathing.*

Breathing techniques are very important in preventing your child from becoming upset and in helping your child relax if they have become worried. Diaphragmatic breathing, or “belly breathing,” is a wonderful way to help your child relax by slowing their breathing and heart rate and making their blood pressure more stable. The ultimate goal is for your child to be able to relax quickly when he or she becomes stressed. The best way to help this happen is through practicing breathing techniques on a daily basis. Practicing deep breathing regularly for a few weeks before a stressful visit can be helpful.

Teach your child to take a deep breath, hold the breath for a few seconds and then release it. For young children, using a pinwheel or bubbles can help them focus on their breathing and distract from their stress!

DeepBreathing Script: for older children or children with more highly developed verbal skills
Using Bubbles or Pinwheels to assist with Deep Breathing: for younger children or children with less developed verbal skills
Video on deep breathing
Make your own pinwheel

2. Music.

Play your child’s favorite music or a silly song to distract them.

3. Muscle Tensing.*

This is a method of having your child relax by focusing on different muscles of the body and alternatively tensing and relaxing them one at a time.

Muscle tensing script
Picture board (pdf) to use with muscle tensing
Video example of muscle tensing

4. Visualization.

Encourage your child to imagine something nice and visualize that scene with eyes closed. Suggest thinking about smells, sounds, and touch of what is imagined. Using pictures or objects to remind your child of favorite places or activities can help this strategy be more successful.

5. Laughter.

One way to let go of tension is simply to have fun. Laughter is an incredible stress reliever. What does your child love to do? What makes him or her laugh? Coming prepared to the doctor’s visit with your children’s favorite toy or activity can help distract your child and make him or her feel calm and relaxed.

* If your child has lost consciousness during prior blood draws, check with your physician before using deep breathing or muscle tensing with your child.