NSU offers free dental care to kids with autism

The Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Dental Medicine is offering free dental services for some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

NSU dentists and behavior analysts have collaborated to develop a treatment plan for children with ASD who attend the university's Baudhuin Preschool at the Mailman Segal Center for Human Development. Postdoctoral dental students who are doing their dental residency at NSU are also being trained to provide specialized care for children with ASD.

The treatment plan utilizes the principles of applied behavior analysis, which modifies behavior for learning or treatment, the university explained in a press release. The plan consists of using tools to help children with ASD feel more comfortable and prepared for dental treatment.

The tools include an iPad video to show children the treatment process and demonstrate desired behavior during treatment, and a task strip to display the steps of treatment, from beginning to end, to show children that their dental care involves a routine that has an ending. During the treatment -- which can be for cleanings, fillings, extractions, and x-rays -- the child is given breaks and allowed to play games on an iPad. After treatment, they get to choose a toy from the treasure chest.

The autism dental service is funded by a $2.5 million federal grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. When the five-year grant ends, the college can apply for a renewal. The grant allows resident dentists and postdoctoral students to use behavioral analysis techniques while treating these children in the dental office at a location that the children are familiar with, such as their school.

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