(Ohio) – Cleveland Clinic Akron General is the first hospital in Akron, and among the first adult hospitals in the nation, to be designated an “Autism Friendly Hospital.”
This designation from the Autism Society of Greater Akron was celebrated at a reception on Tuesday in the hospital’s Main Lobby.
Akron General began the process of seeking this designation in 2017 and has succeeded in having more than 650 employees trained to identify a person with an autism spectrum disorder. In addition, caregivers were trained in adapting their approach and using visual supports to achieve better medical outcomes.
They now use the “Stop. Assess. Support” training curriculum developed by the Autism Society of Greater Akron to help build a more inclusive community that accommodates people with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Ninety-two percent of Akron General caregivers who underwent the training said they feel they can now recognize a person with autism, and 94 percent said they felt comfortable with techniques they learned to accommodate patients with autism.
“It is often difficult for young adults with autism to transition from seeing pediatric providers to an adult setting,” said Laurie Cramer, Executive Director of the Autism Society of Greater Akron. “This initiative is designed to help change that here in Akron, so that patients who live with autism are able to get the care they need in a way that works for them. Autism is often thought of as a pediatric diagnosis, which is why Akron General is one of the first adult hospitals to undergo this type of training.”
In addition to employee training, this initiative also involves incorporating supportive accommodations, such as having tablet devices and picture charts available to reduce communication barriers and having sensory-friendly materials in care areas.
Akron General is updating its electronic medical records to alert all caregivers of a patient’s autism and is adapting some processes, such as working to move patients with autism into exam rooms right away instead of asking them to sit in waiting rooms.
Patients will also receive preference for quieter rooms, away from noisy work areas, to reduce stimuli that can be overwhelming for some people with autism.
“We are very proud to have achieved this designation and look forward to continuing to work with the Autism Society of Greater Akron to help this patient population in any way possible,” said William Lanzinger, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Akron General who is also the Chairman of the Board of the Autism Society of Greater Akron. Dr. Lanzinger was also the physician champion in helping with the hospital’s designation process, and personally trained many of the employees in partnership with the Autism Society of Greater Akron staff.