Getting a blood test - social story

Getting blood drawn for lab work can be a little scary for children. Show your child what to expect before your trip to the doctor's office or hospital. Physicians, hospitals and research centers, knowing what to expect can alleviate the anxieties of many kids with disabilities, particularly those on the autism spectrum. Please feel free to use our social story.  Send us an email and let us know how this social story helped you! 

by Dawn Villarreal, One Place for Special Needs

hospitalI have to get a blood test. A blood test helps doctors learn about what is going on inside my body. I may take a blood test at a doctor's office or at the hospital.






lab chairThe nurse will ask me to sit down in a chair that looks like this. I might ask to sit on my mom or dad's lap. Or I might just sit in the chair and ask to hold my mom or dad's hand.







blood draw lab equipmentThe nurse will bring out gloves, gauze, collection tubes that collect the blood and the needle that helps the blood go into the tubes.







collection tubes One Place for Special NeedsThere are all types of collection tubes in all different colors. These tubes are just small containers that hold the blood. The nurse may only need to use one collection tube. Sometimes she will use many collection tubes.











blood draw One Place for Special NeedsThe nurse will wrap a band around my arm. This might feel different but it does not hurt me.






blood draw One Place for Special NeedsThe nurse will hold my arm and tap the inside of my elbow. She wants to find the best spot to do the blood test.







blood draw One Place for Special NeedsThe nurse will put rubbing alcohol on the gauze and wipe it on the inside of my elbow. The alcohol may smell funny. The gauze will feel cold on my arm. This might feel different but it does not hurt me.







blood draw One Place for Special NeedsThe nurse will take the needle and insert it into my arm. It is very important that I do not move my arm. I need to keep my arm still so the nurse can put the needle into my arm without hurting me.

My mom, dad or a helper might help hold my arm down. The nurse will press down on my arm and I will feel a pinch. I can watch the nurse or choose to look at my mom, dad or something else in the room.





blood draw One Place for Special NeedsThe blood goes from my arm into the needle. Then the blood goes from the needle and down through a thin tubing. Then the blood goes from the tubing into the collection tube.







collection tubesThe nurse takes only enough blood to fill the collection tube. It is very important that I keep my arm still while the nurse is filling the collection tubes. I can stay calm by talking to the nurse, my mom or dad. I might choose to think about some of my favorite things.

The nurse may need to fill more than one collection tube. She removes the full tube and attaches an empty collection tube. I may choose to watch the nurse of I may turn my head and look at something else. I will keep my arm still.




blood draw One Place for Special NeedsThe nurse is finished filling the collection tubes. She will place a cotton swab over the needle in my arm. She will gently remove the needle from my arm. She will gently hold the cotton swab on my arm.







blood draw One Place for Special NeedsThe nurse will put a band-aid over the cotton swab. I am all done! My mom or dad will tell me when I can take off my band-aid.






Tips for parents

Do some pretend play several days before you go for the blood test. Purchase a child's toy doctor kit and pretend to give your child a blood test. Use yarn or another material to tie a bow aorund your child's arm. Use a wet cotton swab to get your child used to the cold rubbing alcohol the nurse will use on their arm. Have your child practice giving you a blood test.

There are topical anesthetic creams (Ela-Max/lidocaine topical) that can be purchased at your local pharmacy (very expensive!) that will numb the area. Apply one and a half hour prior to having the blood drawn. Consider driving and waiting time when applying. Contact your lab to make sure the topical cream will not affect any test results.

Other resources

Getting your blood drawn video - Video showing the steps of a blood draw. The position of the camera is great because it looks like your own arm.

Quick, painless blood draw video - Shows a college student who is apprehensive, but the blood draw is so fast she says, "That was it?"

Dawn VillarrealAbout the writer

Dawn Villarreal runs One Place for Special Needs, a national disability resource that lets you find local and online resources, events and even other families in your neighborhood. She is also moderator of Autism Community Connection, a Yahoo group for families in Illinois. Dawn has two awesome kids and strives for a day when communities can effectively reach out to support all special needs. Reprint permission granted if you include: Reprinted with permission from One Place for Special Needs


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