Henrico Doctors’ unveil region’s first autism and sensory-friendly pediatric ER

Posted at 3:01 PM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 15:01:22-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A trip to the emergency room can be overwhelming for children, especially those with special needs.

That experience can be a little more comforting thanks to the new sensory-friendly pediatric emergency room at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital.

The hospital unveiled the first of its kind facility in Central Virginia during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.

The sensory-friendly facility will be especially helpful for children with autism by providing special communication notebooks to help patients know what to expect during their visit -- a dimming light switch for bright over-head LED lights -- weighted blankets -- and noise-canceling headphones.

A certified child specialist will also be available in each room and staff members will receive special training on how to interact with children who have sensory needs.

"It can be a very scary place for kids. The sights, the sounds, the smells, people telling you what to do. You are out of your element and we wanted to make it a friendly place for them," said Dr. Kevin Connelly, Medical Director of Pediatric ER at Henrico Doctors.

"We make accommodations for people with physical challenges, so why shouldn't we make it for people with sensory challenges?"

Dr. Connelly says the hospital will now be more inclusive and accommodating to all children, eliminate unnecessary stimulation and stressors in the hospital, and improve the hospital experience for families and patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorders.

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