April, 10, 2015, TOMS RIVER, NJ - According to the Autism Society, one in 68 children in the nation has autism - a 30 percent increase from 2008. New Jersey has the highest rates of autism in the country with one in every 45 children being diagnosed. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, Community Medical Center, a Barnabas Health facility, is participating in Autism Speaks' "Light It Up Blue Campaign during the month of April.
"The blue lights shining at Community Medical Center are to recognize and honor the 70 million people affected with autism around the world, and here in our local community," said Stephanie L. Bloom, FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer.
In addition to "Light It Up Blue in April," Community Medical Center is taking aggressive steps to spread awareness about autism and meet the needs of patients with autism and their families through establishing an "Autism Friendly Emergency Department."
The Emergency Department staff - including providers, nursing and support staff – is working closely with Parents of Autistic Children (POAC), Autism Speaks and other agencies, to learn about autism and how to communicate and work with patients with autism. The Emergency Department will be equipped with iPads with special communication software to help facilitate communication. Other support "tools" designed to help patients with autism feel as comfortable as possible include sensory boxes filled with various sensory items, as well as items to provide support, comfort and security, including compression vests, blankets and noise reduction ear muffs. Plans also call for adjustable lighting and noise control.
"We are committed to providing compassion and support to our patients with autism and helping to reduce anxieties involved with coming to the Emergency Department," said Vikram Varma, MD, Chairman, Emergency Department, and Community Medical Center. "We also want to make sure parents feel comfortable informing us their family member has autism so we can provide an environment that is tailored to meet their needs."
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. To learn more about autism, visit www.poac.net or www.autismspeaks.org.