Having a vaccination generates anxiety in most people. However if the purpose of a Covid-19 Vaccination is understood, people will endure momentary discomfort in order to benefit from the health benefits the vaccine brings.
Armed with this knowledge people visit a vaccination centre, which may be a hospital or GP hub. It may also be a football stadium, church or other venue which has been adapted for the purpose.
There they are guided through a process by helpful staff who wear tabards or lanyards identifying them as people who can help. In the vaccination area there are visual clues such as a chair, a table with medical items and a nurse wearing PPE, which guide people to where to sit and who to expect will be doing the vaccination.
Typical people recognise the context of each part of the vaccination procedure. This context guides them to pay attention only to the social factors described above that are relevant to the context, ignoring all other irrelevant factors.
This relieves anxiety and leads to the choice of a safe and effective social response. For typical people who are inherently context sensitive this happens for them without any conscious thought.
For an autistic person with context blindness, this may not happen for them. Without the information that comes from reading context the situation may be profoundly frightening. Not knowing what will happen next, how long it will take, when will it finish, and why it is a good idea can cause extreme anxiety.
A Social Story about vaccination will describe the purpose and the procedure and bring together all those relevant cues that may be missing for an autistic child or adult. I am attaching an example below. It will not match the child or adult you are supporting and must be adapted to the individual concerned. Their perspective must be paramount.
The Story needs to be exactly at their level of understanding and should follow the 10 criteria that are so important in writing a safe and reassuring Story. Factors that might cause an individual anxiety or distress need to be considered, explained and as much as possible any reassuring ‘props’ accommodated and included within the Story eg noise sensitivity and the use of headphones.
Any comfortable way of counting out three seconds of time will give a clear indication of when the pain will finish (I have used the idea of counting to three penguins for this person). It is important to include the idea that there may be delays, and that when the Covid-19 Vaccination is done there is additional waiting time.
I have also included a page related to the understanding that this is the first of two vaccinations to avoid confusion when recalled. Having a Story like this illustrated with photos from the actual vaccination centre is ideal, and of course will help recall what happens when the person has to return the second time.
Last modified: 1st April 2021