According to the CDC, one in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. Children with ASD are 20 percent more likely to be hospitalized for injuries than typically developing children. For a child with ASD, a hospital visit can provoke challenging behaviors. But now, hospitals are using a cart full of tricks to calm patients with ASD and allow them to get the care they need.
Anna loves to dance.
She also has autism. Children like Anna have a hard time communicating their needs to others.
“She knew I wasn’t understanding. So, I’d see the pain in her eyes because she’s literally trying to tell her mommy something, and she knows her mommy doesn’t understand,” said Angelique Hall, Anna’s mother.
And when it comes to hospital visits, it can be challenging for both parents and healthcare providers. It may be difficult to understand the needs or wants of a patient with ASD and it may be tough to keep them calm while they are in the hospital. Allison Rein is an emergency room child life specialist.
“For kids on the autism spectrum disorder, with other sensory difficulties, it’s gonna be completely out of their normal day,” stated Allison Rein, CCLS, a Child Life Specialist at Arnold Palmer Hospital.
So to keep kids calm, Rein relies on a cart full of simple tricks. It’s called the sensory cart. The cart is packed with a bubble tube, aromatherapy diffusers. And a projector to display relaxing images on the nearest wall.
The cart can even pump out tunes to help soothe anxious kids. Haley Messmore, CCLS, Inpatient Critical Care Unit at Arnold Palmer Hospital uses the sensory cart for her admitted patients.
“Sensory stimulation is a really important thing in the hospital when they have lots of unfamiliar settings and noises and people. Providing those opportunities where they feel that something is familiar is really important,” said Messmore.
Giving patients with ASD a safe space so they can get the care they need.
The cart is not only for children with ASD. Specialists can use this for any kid going into surgery to calm their nerves. Most children’s hospitals around the country have a sensory cart similar to this that can be requested if it is available.