Autism and working through getting blood work

Shelly Green

I received a frantic call from a parent requesting help for her son. He was scheduled to have lab work that morning and her husband, who helped to restrain him in the past, was out of town. The child, a 16 year old with an Asperger’s diagnosis and two cochlear implants, had not been able to make it through a blood test without a physical intervention.

I quickly went into my, “How do I get through blood work?” mindset and drove off to the local pharmacy to buy my markers and paper. I actually drew the visual at the counter so it would be done before I reached the hospital.

When I arrived, I saw my 6 foot tall student clutching a stuffed animal. Together, we sprang into action. I presented him with the visual and explained to him the different sensations he probably would be experiencing: nervous, discomfort, pain, and pain-free. I reinforced, using the visual timeline, just how little time would be spent in PAIN. When they called him in, we positioned the visual right in front of him as a focus point. He immediately, removed his implants as a way of removing extra stimuli. Good thing, we use visuals as he was now totally deaf!

I moved my finger through the timeline, as the procedure happened, and before long (6 minutes and 35 seconds to be exact), he was in pain-free and about to exit the building.

The best part of the experience was witnessing his pride in the accomplishment! He had made it through and was now able to replace the negative ideas of blood work with an, “It wasn’t so bad” thought.

I left the experience with the reinforcement that these kids are so magical and so willing to do better when given the information they need!


Shelley Green has been working in the field of Special Education for the past 30 years. She has an interest in helping other teachers and administrators understand the magic in working with children with Autism Spectrum diagnoses. Shelley has found great pleasure in creating ways to make abstract social concepts both concrete and visual. Using this strategy, she has found success in reaching and teaching this special population.

Courtesy of Social Thinking

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