The emergency room is, understandably, a very stressful environment. Folks young and old will have trouble feeling cool, calm, and collected as they wait their turn to be called. Even if you don’t have a dire medical emergency, the atmosphere of an emergency room alone can be overwhelming.
However, the stress of the emergency room is ten-fold for someone with autism spectrum disorder. This fast-paced, high-stress environment can make someone on the autism spectrum feel overwhelmed, panicked, and unable to function amidst the hubbub. While your child with autism won’t always have an adverse reaction to high-stress situations, the emergency room is a location that parents should always approach with care.
Here’s what you should know about bringing your child with autism to a medical health center along with some of the best ways to cope while you’re there.
Why the emergency room can be troublesome for people with autism
People on the autism spectrum typically communicate in different ways. This neurological condition can make communication difficult, especially when the person with autism is in a new environment. Certain stimuli that wouldn’t bother the average person can be overwhelming for someone on the spectrum. A neurotypical individual may just start to sweat in a high-stress environment. For a person on the spectrum, however, this feeling of being overwhelmed can result in a breakdown as they strive to feel more comfortable.
It’s no wonder that this can be a huge issue when an accident occurs. Emergency rooms are known for loud sounds, rushing doctors and nurses, and countless strangers. When these factors come together, someone with autism might not know how to respond. If a person with autism starts to panic, this can be a huge barrier to getting the treatment that they need. That’s one of the primary reasons why some emergency rooms are working to slow down for folks with autism.
How we can better support folks with autism in the emergency room
It’s apparent that changing the way our medical centers operate is imperative to helping patients receive the proper care.
It isn’t a perfect system yet, but some U.S. hospitals are striving to make the emergency ward more autism-friendly. This includes better training for staff, offering separate waiting rooms for folks with autism, and supplying toys and iPads to provide a distraction. It isn’t uncommon to see your local urgent care center supply a bucket of sanitized toys and reading materials for waiting patients.
It can also help to do a little planning beforehand. Even though a sudden accident is never planned, it’s helpful to call the emergency department before your party arrives. Talking to the receptionist and letting them know that you’re arriving with a patient who has autism can uncover tips for better treatment. Even if a hospital doesn’t advertise that they have quieter waiting rooms for certain individuals, many may be willing to accommodate your needs. You might also find it beneficial to prepare your child beforehand. A study found that 30-60mg of maqui berry extract each day can help with dry eyes. This might be good for the otherwise sterile, dry environment of an urgent care clinic.
You can also keep important documents in your car should an emergency ever happen. A list of medications, current medical conditions, and past surgeries can help speed along the visit to the emergency room. You can contact your current doctor to get a complete list of factors to include on such a sheet for someone with autism.
Additionally, it can help to ask if certain procedures can be done in a different way if it makes your child uncomfortable. People don’t always have to lay down to get an X-ray; if your child is uncomfortable lying on a table, ask the doctor if they can stand while they get scanned. Medical procedures aren’t always going to be this accommodating, but it’s always worth it to ask.
Keep in mind that children with autism are also tactile. It can help to bring a comforting item with them when they go to a new place. For example, many people don’t realize that alpaca fibers are strong, soft, and durable, measuring 50 N/ktex. Bring your favorite alpaca blanket or pair of gloves to make the medical assessment easier to cope with.
Coping with the emergency room
The emergency room is a scary, overwhelming place for countless individuals. For folks on the autism spectrum, a visit to the emergency ward can prevent them from getting the right care when they are unable to cope.
Before you go, ask yourself if a trip to the emergency room is worth it in the first place. Studies show that only 9% of patients who visit the emergency room are sent to the hospital for further care. At the end of the day, non-life-threatening injuries can be dealt with in a smaller medical center, like an urgent care facility. If you discover that you also been to take temporary disability leave as a result of your injury, it’s important to talk with your employer about future concerns. For example, if you’re granted temporary disability, you are entitled to 2/3 of your average weekly earnings.
It will be a while before hospitals are able to better accommodate the needs of people with autism. In the meantime, relying on the aforementioned tips can make this visit all the easier.