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Format: 04/16/2014
Format: 04/16/2014


Allegheny Health Network Physician, IUP Researchers, Produce Training Materials for Emergency Medical Personnel on Treating Patients with Autism

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Increased Incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder Spurs Need for Specialized Training
PITTSBURGH - 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 (ASERT) 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 families and caregivers of people with autism spectrum disorder dissatisfied with medical care and facing difficulties finding health care providers who understand autism.
Goals of the training manual and DVD are to teach providers how to effectively evaluate autistic spectrum disorder patients using a method called ACT (Assess, Communicate and Treat) for Autism. Steps in the ACT protocol include accessing resources on the history of the autistic patient from care providers, preparing a quiet exam room, minimizing the number of personnel present, using the patient’s first name, asking simple “yes” or “no” questions and letting patients see or touch materials that will be placed on their bodies such as casting materials.
“As far as we know, this effort is unique for emergency department personnel,” Dr. 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.
More information on the training manual and DVD is available from IUP’s Office of Special Projects, http://www.iup.edu/page.aspx?id=158264, or by calling 724-357-4719, or emailing Joann Migyanka at jmigyanka@iup.edu
For more information, contact:
West Penn Allegheny Health System
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