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(UK) Gateshead: Hospital becomes "autism friendly; 'we get a lot of children who are autistic, neurodiverse'

Jan 6, 2024, Chronicle Live: Gateshead's Queen Elizabeth Hospital becomes first in region to hit autism-friendly 'gold standard' for children's units

NE England

Gateshead's Queen Elizabeth Hospital is the first in the region to see its children's department meet the North East Autism Society's (NEAS) "gold standard".

The charity has awarded the "Gold Standard for Autism Acceptance" to the hospital's paediatric team - in honour of a series of innovations there which have been designed to make young autistic and neurodivergent patients feel comfortable while on the wards. These ideas included "distraction packs", giving children a "care passport" and carrying out an audit of how the children's unit and children's A&E are experienced by youngsters who are autistic or neurodivergent.

Staff nurse Ashleigh Harrison is the department's autism lead - she herself is mum to Jack, 4, who is autistic. She said: "I am keen to make a difference to children and support parents attending the department. I understand how difficult it can be to bring an autistic child into the hospital environment as I have had to do this with Jack on several occasions."

Distraction packs include fidget toys, sensory aids, and sunglasses, while the care passport allows youngsters help to express their likes and dislikes as they spend time in hospital. After auditing the unit's provision, a "sensory tent" was also introduced to support youngsters, while staff have all received training from the NEAS charity.

Michelle Thomas, ward manager for paediatrics, said: "We get a lot of children who are autistic or neurodiverse, and I’m immensely proud of what’s been achieved with the help of the North East Autism Society. The award is the result of a lot of hard work and care across the whole team."


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