UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Environment Modifications for Autism in the ED

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder, neurodevelopmental disorder (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/6/2022 by Rachel Wiltjer, DO (Updated: 12/8/2022)
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  • Autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders can predispose to challenging ED encounters secondary to difficulties with sensory processing and communication
  • Small changes to the environment can help to reduce stress, generally by decreasing stimulation
  • Use quieter areas of the ED when possible, decrease volume of alarms, and consider noise cancelling headphones or white noise if available
  • Consider dimming the lights, turning the monitor/computer screen away from the patient
  • Allow the patient to remain in their own clothing and consider whether restrictive items such as the monitor, pulse oximeter, and blood pressure cuff are necessary (but continue to use them when they are medically appropriate)
  • Offering distraction via electronics, fidget toys, or weighted blanket (or lead apron) may help with managing stress
  • Ask the patient or family which modifications would be helpful for the patient and ask child life for assistance where available

 

References

Wiltjer, R, Wilkerson, R. Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Emergency Department. Emergency Medicine Reports. 2021.