New Program to Help Kids With Autism in the Emergency Room

A trip to the emergency room is stressful enough, but when you add in the extra sensory sensitivity that children with autism often experience, it’s that much worse.

With this is mind, Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Florida, is piloting a new program aimed at reducing stress for children on the autism spectrum who visit the emergency room, the Associated Press reported.

As part of the program, a child life specialist is brought in and staff are trained to reduce the use of unnecessary monitors and expedite tests and consults. In addition, soothing, stress-relieving things like a separate, quiet waiting room or playroom, headphones and sensory brushes to help distract children are offered.

Research studies are underway to evaluate the pilot and the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, in Wilmington, Delaware, a sister hospital to Nemours, is currently planning a similar program.

This isn’t the first time a hospital has made changes in order to make the emergency room more accommodating to those on the spectrum. In 2014, Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell in New Jersey launched an initiative to make its pediatric emergency department autism-friendly, which included reducing the use of florescent lighting, having the options of using iPads to communicate with patients and offering “sensory boxes” near the nurses’ stations with toys of different textures for patients to choose from, reported.

“We’ve got all these tricks up our sleeves, but it’s not so much about the hardware or software,” Dr. Zach Kassutto, director of the pediatric emergency department at Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell, told the outlet. “It’s really, in my mind, about working with parents and working with the kids and really listening.”

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