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Little Journey Successfully Supports Children With Autism

Little Journey Successfully Supports Children With Autism

New research from Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children has shown how Little Journey benefits children with Autism undergoing dental surgery. Coming to hospital to have an operation is a daunting experience for anyone but it can be even harder for children with Autism. Changes in routine, the environment and meeting new people can all increase anxiety and potential distress in this group of children.


Autism affects around 1 in 100 people.


Research has shown that graded exposure and desensitisation can help reduce anxiety and distress in children with autism undergoing healthcare procedures. Dr Cunningham, a dental surgeon from Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (RBHSC), reached out to the Little Journey team to help support her patients with autism undergoing dental surgery. She reports:


With limited time and resources available, it can be really challenging to adequately prepare children with autism for an operation”


Dr Cunningham carried out a research project at RBHSC which found that nearly 70% of her patients waiting for basic dental care requiring a general anaesthetic had a diagnosis of Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or profound dental anxiety. When provided with the Little Journey application to use at home before their operation, children’s anxiety levels – as reported by their parents – drastically dropped by over 30%. Feedback from children without autism, strongly indicated its benefit in this patient group too.


Dr Cunningham states:

“The use of virtual reality in dentistry has great potential. Little Journey, as a form of home-based preparation has proven to be highly successful and parental feedback has been extremely positive.”


Dr Cunningham’s research was presented at the European Academy of Paediatric Dentistry in July 2020.






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