People with Autism Are More Likely to Visit the ER…That’s Why This Program Is So Important!

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Emergency room visits are often long, boring, and tough for children — and even more so for kids with special needs. Recently, Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Florida began a new hospital program tailored toward children with autism. The program aims to make ER visits easier for kids and parents alike.

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The program at Nemours, called “Respecting Each Awesome Child Here” or REACH, aims to eliminate unnecessary stimuli in the waiting room. The goal is to make the ER experience less stressful for kids with autism. When parents arrive with their children, they’re asked to tell staff if their kids have autism or other related special needs. The staff can then offer each family various resources, including headphones and sensory brushes.

Instead of remaining in the regular waiting area, REACH families are given the opportunity to wait in a separate room. Intake staff tell the healthcare team about the REACH family, and a child life specialist arrives to ensure the family has all their unique needs met.

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Next, frontline staff ask the family about their child’s preferences, allergies, and behavioral triggers so the child stays comfortable in preparation for treatment. The caregivers also establish a REACH order, which will travel with the special needs child and his or her family for the entirety of the hospital visit.

The REACH program aims to alleviate as much of the child’s anxiety about the hospital stay as possible. When parents and children leave Nemours Children’s Hospital feeling taken care of, the program’s positive impact continues well beyond the establishment’s doors.

This kind of program is extraordinarily important because people with autism are much more likely to end up in the emergency room, largely due to mental health problems, and it’s important that staff in all hospitals is prepared to receive these individuals.

Children with autism often do better in specialist environments tailored to their needs. When hospitals work to accommodate those needs, kids get diagnosed and treated efficiently.

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