As a parent, taking your child to a dental appointment can be a daunting experience for the both of you.
Rebecca is the proud mum of Archie, who is the inspiration behind her non-profit organisation, awesomearchie.co.uk, which supports neurodiversity at school and at home.
Working in collaboration with Autism Unlimited, she has shared her lived experience at the dentist to raise awareness of the challenges many autistic people may face and to encourage the public to show understanding and kindness towards people’s differences.
For Archie and Rebecca, a huge amount of preparation is taken before they even leave the door. Whether that’s through a social story or watching a YouTube video, a lot of work is needed so he knows what to expect and is as comfortable as possible.
The sounds, the masks, the lights, and the smells in a dental surgery can all be a challenge due to sensory processing differences. It can become overwhelming – but Rebecca does her best to support and comfort Archie.
However, the hardest part is when, despite all the preparation and effort that was taken to get to that stage, someone makes a judgement or a comment when they see Archie behaving a little bit differently to what they expect. They have no idea how much hard work was needed to make it into the surgery.
For Archie, just making it out the door, going into the surgery, and being in the waiting room is a massive achievement, for which she’s incredibly proud of – and she hates having to apologise for something that makes her proud.
She wishes more people would understand that everyone is different. Each individual is unique and may experience a situation differently – they shouldn’t be so quick to judge.
Instead, they should take a moment to consider what’s going on in the background – to understand a different perspective and be an ally rather than adding to the stress of the situation.
There have been occasions in the past where people have stepped up and shown kindness – where individuals have reassured her that they themselves have been through something similar. Just knowing that they’re not judging her is a huge comfort.
Another example of an ally is their dentist, Dr Robyn Hughes, who has shown exceptional kindness. Thanks to his patience and understanding, both Archie and Rebecca feel relieved as they enter his office. He listens to their needs and makes any necessary accommodations.
These small acts of kindness and solidarity, knowing someone’s got her back, is incredibly important to her as a parent/carer - it can be lonely and isolating at times, but knowing someone is an ally is such a relief.
She feels proud to be part of this campaign – to be part of change for the autistic community in the wider world, and hopes that by sharing her perspective, more people will be inspired to increase their understanding and show acceptance.