Making Emergency Rooms More Autism-Friendly (Source: Spectrum News)

Visiting a hospital can be a traumatic ordeal for anyone, but for an individual on the autism spectrum, it can be unbearably stressful. Many autistic children and adults suffer from high sensitivity to lights and sounds, making an emergency room overwhelming. With the number of autism diagnoses growing, a small but growing number of hospital emergency rooms across the U.S. have begun implementing rooms that accommodate those on the spectrum.

Fareed Fareed, medical director at HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston, New York, states, “There’s a growing need. It’s ensuring you’re meeting the needs of a segment of the population”. Accommodations range from better training of personnel, dimmer lighting, quieter waiting rooms, and calming objects for children, such as toys and electronic devices.

Furthermore, some facilities are adapting their treatment procedures. For example, the Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando specifically performs their routine procedures in a designated room for children with autism (once approved by their parent). This enables doctors to tailor their approach on how to treat the child. Physicians and nurses utilize photographs and drawings to help the children describe how they feel, the children can write out their feelings, or place their illness/pain on a scale.

Many emergency rooms have seen success with these accommodations, and they are now being made in the radiology department and operating rooms. Research shows that children with autism are more likely to seek health treatment in the ER. Further, the number of autistic adults using the ER as increased in recent years. Edward Jauch, director of emergency medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina states, “People on the autism spectrum utilize the healthcare system more often. They disproportionately are using our services”. From a cost standpoint, it makes sense to breakdown the proper ways to treat these individuals more effectively.

Read more on Spectrum News

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