HCA Virginia December 19, 2019

Richmond, VA. - Henrico Doctors' Hospital is the first facility in Central Virginia to offer an autism and sensory-friendly pediatric ER and hospital.

The newly designed rooms will provide pediatric patients with sensory concerns specific features and services including: a communication notebook with step- by-step procedure pictures to let patients know what to expect; a dimmer switch on overhead LED lighting; calming light projector; sensory cart filled with calming toys and products; redesigned rooms, painted in a relaxing blue with minimal equipment; weighted blankets and noise canceling headphones; and a certified child life specialist. In addition, all staff members are trained in how to best interact with patients with sensory needs.

Henrico Doctors' worked closely with the St. Josephs Villa Sarah Dooley Center for Autism in making the pediatric ER autism-friendly. Children from the center also contributed artwork to the rooms.

According to Kevin Connelly, D.O., medical director of the pediatric emergency department at Henrico Doctors' Hospital, there are over 4,000 children with autism spectrum disorder in the surrounding counties.

"For these families to know that they have a place to go where the staff has been trained, where there's special equipment to help patients feel more comfortable, helps patients and the family feel more at ease when an emergency arises," said Connelly.

Through redesigned rooms and staff education, Henrico Doctors' will be able to:

  • Improve the entire hospital experience for families and patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorders
  • Make the hospital more inclusive and accommodating to all children
  • Eliminate unnecessary stimulation and stressors in the hospital
  • Provide adaptive, compassionate care, not only for the child but also the family and caregivers
  • Provide a safe, reliable, and familiar place in which to seek medical care

According to the CDC, 1 in 59 children has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and 1 in 6 has a developmental disability. ASD is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Children with ASD have the same basic health care needs as children without disabilities, yet they have unique health care needs relating to how they process sensory information.