The importance of autism awareness training at your healthcare practice
With active organisations such as the National Autistic Society working to break down barriers, and campaigns like World Autism Awareness Week seeking to provide information about the condition, the world has become much more willing to adapt to the needs and unique perspectives of autistic individuals.
This kind of flexibility has never been more relevant and crucial than in a health care setting where empathy and consideration are paramount.
What should healthcare workers know about autism?
Autism is a developmental condition with a broad array of characteristics, and as such it is often known as a ‘spectrum’ disorder and is designated by the abbreviation ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).
Individuals with ASD all have a unique spot on this spectrum when it comes to functional and communicative skills.
High-functioning individuals – most typically with symptoms associated with social interaction – used to be more commonly diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome, but are now usually considered part of the broad spectrum.
Autism symptoms that healthcare workers should recognise
One of the main issues associated with autism is that patients with this condition often struggle to communicate via traditional means. Some individuals have limited or no ability to produce verbal speech in any form.
Other patients, especially younger children, might express themselves through echolalia, repeating your words or questions.
In some cases, a patient might not have a problem forming words, but may struggle to understand social cues, read emotions, and respond appropriately.
In addition, people with autism can exhibit a range of behaviours that differ from neurotypical individuals. Healthcare workers might find that a patient acts out repetitive behaviours, sometimes known as ‘stimming’.
Many designers create calming activities because sensory input from the outside world can be overwhelming for many autistic individuals.
Increasingly, everyday venues – such as supermarkets and cinemas – open at designated times specifically for autistic individuals. These provisions allow for a quieter space and dimmer lights.
Through autism awareness training for your practice, you can identify how you might be able to adopt similar accommodations to allow autistic individuals, or parents of autistic children, to access your services.
Using autism awareness training in healthcare settings
Understanding the behavioural patterns associated with autism is crucial when operating in a healthcare environment.
One of the most important aspects of providing medical care is extracting information from your patient.
With an autistic individual, it might prove harder to get a definite answer about what symptoms they have, how long they have had these symptoms, or the severity of their pain and discomfort.
Autism awareness training will equip you with the communication tools required to support the patient sensitively and carefully. This will enable you to provide the necessary medical service.
Autism awareness training improves the experience of healthcare professionals
Autism awareness training isn’t just about making your patient’s life easier and calmer, but is also about providing you with the tools to feel comfortable, capable, and secure while doing your job.
For instance, being able to predict and understand sensory issues can help a medical appointment progress smoothly.
Healthcare providers can better support the patient by having the foresight to dim lights when safe to do so or offer a sensory distraction for younger children.
This training can be particularly helpful in situations such as when a child with autism is due for their vaccinations.
It will help you to provide the necessary service. Additionally, it will ensure that you are more prepared and less at risk with the needle if the patient responds suddenly or becomes agitated.
The importance of adapting to communication technologies
In some cases, your patient with autism might not be able to communicate verbally. Individuals with autism might increasingly adopt one of several devices for use in home and educational settings.
Recognising that a patient communicates via text, or through Makaton or other symbols, can be essential in providing a good quality of care. It allows you to get the answers that you require to provide medical assistance.
Technology plays a big role in this provision. Tablet apps allow patients to use words or images to describe their condition and respond to necessary questions.
Occasionally, autistic individuals might not be able to communicate verbally or with text and symbols. In this scenario, our autism awareness training can help you to know how to effectively communicate with the patient and their carer in a sensitive way.
Knowing how to correctly approach a patient who has limited communication means will enable you to provide the service with dignity and respect.
How does autism awareness training affect care for adults and the elderly?
Autism is often diagnosed during early development, particularly the toddler years. The aim is to provide early intervention in order to improve communication and social interaction skills.
Healthcare providers are increasingly diagnosing ASD in the adult population. This is particularly true for those with high-functioning autism who experience social interaction issues.
Autism awareness training can help you recognize the different forms of the condition in both children and adults. You can then adapt your approach accordingly to provide better support and care.
Just like caring for a neurotypical child is different from interacting with a neurotypical adult patient. Similarly, the needs of younger and adult patients with autism will differ significantly.
ASD is now a widely recognized condition. However, many patients who were not formally recognized as being on the spectrum in the past have missed out on a diagnosis.
It is crucial for healthcare providers to be able to recognize communication and social interaction signs. They should also employ the same level of care and sensitivity in those cases as they do when a patient has a formal diagnosis.
When caring for elderly patients, medical professionals might have to consider a combination of conditions, such as arthritis and osteoporosis. They may also need to address a neurodegenerative condition like progressive dementia.
Considering the possibility of autism, however, and approaching the situation with the due care and consideration will always ensure a smoother healthcare journey.
Each year in the UK, medical knowledge expands exponentially.
These improvements are not just in technologies and treatments, but also in the provision of healthcare.
Through comprehensive health care training, providers can continue to learn and adapt throughout their lives and careers.
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