The typical emergency room environment — loud, chaotic, rushed — can frighten an autistic person, making a difficult situation for the patient, caregiver and health care provider even more difficult. It can heighten the autistic person’s struggles with communication, sensory processing and social behavior.
A new training manual and DVD, “A Guide for Emergency Department Personnel: Assessing and Treating Individuals With Autism,” aims to educate emergency medical personnel on how to assess, communicate and treat the autistic patient.
Joann Migyanka, D.Ed., Jeffrey Fratangeli, PhD, and Susan Glor-Scheib, PhD, of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, along with Arvind Venkat, MD, FACEP, vice chair for Research and Faculty Academic Affairs in the Department of Emergency Medicine of the West Penn Allegheny Health System, a part of the Allegheny Health Network, wrote the training manual and developed the DVD through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Bureau of Autism Services to the Western Regional Autism Services Education Resources Training Collaborative.
“For reasons we don’t completely understand, the incidence of autism spectrum disorder is on the rise. Now more general clinicians, often with limited knowledge, face the challenges of treating people with autism” Dr. Venkat said.
“Emergency department employees in particular are often confronted with distressed or agitated patients who may find it difficult to communicate their needs. Autism Spectrum Disorder patients are particularly at risk for this obstacle to effective medical care.”
A 2011 survey by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Bureau of Autism Services found that families and caregivers of people with autism spectrum disorder dissatisfied with medical care and facing difficulties finding health care providers who understand autism.
“As far as we know, this effort is unique for emergency department personnel,” Venkat said.
“At the presentations we’ve made, we’ve gotten great feedback from health care providers that this material is needed and welcome.”
Dr. Venkat, Dr. Migyanka and Dr. Glor-Scheib have already presented the information at state and local conferences for emergency medical personnel.