A trip to the emergency room is a crisis for any family, but especially so when your child has autism. The sights, sounds, smells, and quick pace of a hospital emergency room can overwhelm the senses of an individual with autism and bring on problem behaviors and cause great distress. Here are a few tips to make things go a little more smoothly:
1. Prepare your child before an emergency happens: Utilize visual supports or social stories to walk your child through circumstances they might encounter. This is a great way to reduce their anxiety and explain unfamiliar situations in advance so an already bad situation won't feel worse in the moment when they see something in person for the first time.
2. Ask for a tour: Emergency rooms can be a very busy place but even they have down time on occasion. Consider contacting your local ER and asking for a small walking tour of the waiting area or a few of the rooms. Even if this is not available, you could take your child to the hospital and walk around a bit, visit the cafeteria, see a few doctors walking around in different types of outfits, etc just to make the hospital not such a scary place.
3. Call ahead and alert the staff: While on your way, see if you can contact someone in the ER who could prepare for your arrival. A quieter waiting area, a shortened wait time, a private room, comfort items, and other such accommodations may be available if you take the time to ask.
4. Be assertive: If your loved one has special needs that don't allow them to advocate for themselves, make sure that you are available to speak up. Let staff know what types of things may alarm or upset the patient, things that will keep them calm, things they may have reacted badly to in the past, etc. Always be respectful, but don't be afraid to speak up!