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And with autism rates on the rise, pediatric hospitalists need to think about strategies for dealing with a population that appears to be growing rapidly.Control the environment According to Fighting Autism, a national nonprofit organization, the number of autistic individuals between the ages of 3 and 22 skyrocketed from 93,650 in 2000 to 259,705 in 2006.Published in the December 2008 issue of Today’s Hospitalist Talk to Casey Drake, MD, about the challenges of treating autistic children in the hospital, and she recalls the family who moved a wingback chair into the hospital room.The chair was the patient’s favorite, and letting him sit in it during exams and blood draws made for a much smoother hospitalization.
Drake says that it doesn’t have to be as labor- intensive as moving furniture.
At Blythedale Children’s, child-life specialists “counselors who provide support for families and help children deal with hospitalization through play, preparation and education “use dolls to demonstrate procedures before they are performed.
If patients are old enough, specialists will often let children perform the procedure on their own dolls.
“When you can,” she says, “offer these patients a diet they will eat, feed them at the same time and, if need be, even present the tray in the same way each time.” Guard against sensory overload Experts urge physicians to understand patients’ sensory sensitivities.
Many are susceptible to sensory overload, while others may be much more tactile and visual than non-autistic children.
And because many autistic patients have ritualized eating fetishes, Dr.