Providing Emergency Care for Autism Patients
The term autism represents a spectrum of disorders. It is made up of disorders that share core symptoms, which means that individuals diagnosed with autism exhibit some challenges when it comes to communication and social interaction. However, the presentation of symptoms can vary from one individual to another. Some of the notable symptoms of individuals with autism include:
- High interest in specific objects
- Issues with social interaction with other people
- Repeated body movements
- Heightened or limited reaction to any of the five senses
Individuals with autism do not have any distinguishing features that may immediately signal to other people that they have an autism spectrum disorder.
Emergency Response to Patients with Autism
That said, emergency workers who respond to a crisis may not know if the person they are attending has autism. Ideally, they would ask or be informed but this can be difficult in the heat of an emergency. Patients with autism need to receive a different level of care, delivered as efficiently as possible. In most cases, the efficiency of emergency care is crucial. Often, only those who have the highest level of certification from training centers like Newcastle Training can provide this level of care. The quality of the emergency response will make a huge difference in saving a patient’s life.
One of the key factors that EMS workers need to remember is that individuals with autism spectrum disorder can have a different reaction to the usual stimuli and physical examinations. For this reason, first responders must have the quick judgment to recognize signs that the patient has autism spectrum disorder. When signs are noticed, first responders should adjust their treatment methods accordingly.
What Emergency Response Teams Need to Know When Caring for Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Individuals with an autism spectrum disorder have different ranges of sensation. Often, they react to heat, cold, and pain differently. In some cases, there is an absence of pain acknowledgment despite the presence of notable pathology. Emergency response teams must also be aware that some patients will laugh, hum, sing, and even remove pieces of their clothing as a sign of pain.
- Those with autism may have heightened tactile sensory issues. Sometimes the use of bandages and other adhesives will cause them to become aggressive or increasingly anxious.
- Since individuals with an autism spectrum disorder are often not used to social interaction, they may not be as cooperative to EMS workers giving primary care. As such, responders need to explain and give a heads up of what they are planning to do next. Generally, physical examinations should not start without warning. Sometimes patients can show aggression if they do not know what will happen next.
- Take precautions at all times. Understand that young children with autism often ingest things without the knowledge of their parents or primary caregivers. Make sure to look for signs of obstructed airway and examine for other injuries that may not be obvious.
- Responders should always ask the primary caregiver the best way to approach the patient. Would the child calm down with a teddy bear? Ask what helps the individual calm down and apply it to ease the examination process. This way, EMS workers can provide the best level of care.
- If possible, examine the patient in a quiet area together with an individual highly trusted by the patient.
Caring for an individual with an autism spectrum disorder means being aware of what their needs are. Do the examination as quickly as possible to reduce the stress it may cause the patient.
*This blog post was written by Khazen Ali.