Pediatric Emergency Department at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital Becomes the First Autism Certified Center in NJ   
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Pediatric Emergency Department at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital Becomes the First Autism Certified Center in NJ

What You Need to Know  

The Pediatric Emergency Department at  Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital has been awarded the accolade of becoming the first Emergency Department in New Jersey to earn the Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) designation through the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). 

As part of the CAC designation process, at least 80% of physicians, nurses and patient-facing department staff completed a training and certification program to better understand the autism spectrum and strategies for communication, patient interaction and safety. IBCCES also reviewed the emergency department on-site to provide additional support, recommendations and tools to enhance access and options for autistic patients and their families.

The Certified Autism Center™ certification is the latest initiative undertaken by the multidisciplinary group of physicians, nurses, behaviorists and physical medicine specialists who are working to meet  the needs of the thousands of families it serves who are living with autism spectrum disorder.  The certification initiative was spearheaded by Richard Schultz, Jr., nurse manager of the Pediatric Emergency Department. 

According to research, 1 in 34 children and their families are coping with an ASD diagnosis, with the reporting of cases having jumped 300 percent in the past 16 years. Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health Programs include:  

  • As part of the requirements for designation as an CAC site, all healthcare providers in the Emergency Department at Joseph M. Sanzari received training in best practices for caring for autism patients.
  • Team of developmental pediatricians who evaluate and diagnose autism and along with support staff to help families connect to services. Recently hired board certified behavioral analysts (BCBA)  who work to provide individualized care for the Emergency Department and inpatient units. 
  •  You and Me Autism Program at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute serves children up to the age of 6 providing one-on-one therapy sessions.
  • Through EmpowerU, a platform dedicated to families living with autism, families and caregivers can enroll in a free text message platform that provides personalized health information and connections to resources. The platform is designed to meet the needs of caregivers of children aged 1 to 21, and children aged 12 to 17. This is available to patients and families at all 18 Hackensack Meridian Health hospitals.
  • This month, the network introduced the Coping Passport tool which makes it possible for  families to communicate their children’s needs with their care team or outside resources such as a school. Information that can be included in the passport include preferences for communication styles and how discomfort and pain is expressed. The passport is meant to support  patients with special needs, including but not limited to autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, anxiety, and ADHD. Developmental Pediatrician Dr. Oana DaVinck-Baroody  was instrumental in the adoption of the tool.
  • This month Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital launched the While You Wait monthly workshops for parents/caregivers with age-specific guidance on how to access community support and educational resources, and provide guidance on how to request help for their children while families wait for a formal developmental evaluation.
  • Sensory carts, which help to provide convenient access to a variety of calming activities, are available in the Pediatric Emergency Departments at Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health two children’s hospitals and will soon be introduced at other Hackensack Meridian Health hospitals.
  • Art installations are being held this month to mark April’s Autism Acceptance Month.  Patients will showcase their work at art galleries in Westwood and Spring Lake New Jersey.   After the shows, the art installations will be on display at the two children’s hospitals. 

Many autistic individuals have different needs related to communication, pain perception and other treatments. IBCCES’ programs were created by clinical experts, as well as autistic individuals, to ensure a well-rounded approach. Offering care that includes a patient and family in each step of the process is vital. With 1 in 6 people experiencing sensory needs or sensitivities and 1 in 36 children diagnosed with autism in the United States, it’s essential to provide appropriate training for emergency medicine staff so patients, their families and their caregivers feel confident they will receive supportive care.

IBCCES has been an industry leader for more than  20 years in cognitive disorder training and certification for education, health care, and corporate professionals around the globe. The organization provides evidence-based training and certification programs created in conjunction with clinical experts and the perspectives of autistic individuals, alongside other resources, ongoing support and renewal requirements to ensure there is continued learning and a lasting impact.

IBCCES also created, as a free online resource for parents that lists certified locations and professionals. Each organization listed on the site has met the Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) requirements. 

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