The Spectrum of Care: Autism-Friendly Services at Columbia Memorial Health | Sponsored | Medical | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
  • Images courtesy Columbia Memorial Health

When patients with special needs like autism have a medical emergency, providing the appropriate level of care takes more than medical knowledge—it takes empathy, patience, and thoughtful planning.

That’s why the emergency and rapid care teams at Columbia Memorial Health, which primarily serves patients in Columbia, Greene, and Dutchess counties, go the extra mile to treat patients who need help acclimating to a clinical or hospital setting.

“Going to the doctor can be scary for anyone,” says Dr. Michael Weisberg, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Columbia Memorial Health. “So when it comes to patients who need a little bit of additional care, we’ll do everything we can to make the experience as painless and comfortable as possible.”

Both the Emergency Department at Columbia Memorial Health and their Rapid Care centers in Copake and Valatie have dedicated rooms for patients with autism, who might struggle with the high stimulation of the surrounding clinical environment. These rooms feature lower furniture, calming paint colors, sensory blankets, and iPads to help ease communication.

  • Images courtesy Columbia Memorial Health
“As medical providers we have a responsibility to be mindful of each of our patients’ cultural, intellectual, and physical needs,” Dr. Weisberg explains. “Just like we have a handicap-accessible entrance, we need to have extra tools to make sure we can listen, communicate, and ultimately treat everyone who comes through our doors.”

For Columbia Memorial Health, this consideration extends past the sensory experiences like paint colors and furniture. It includes prioritizing how doctors approach each new patient and situation.

“Not every patient we see is going to have the same level of communication skills, and we need to be mindful of that,” Dr. Weisberg says. “We need to listen to and watch our patients closely so we can pick up on their nonverbal cues. We also need to work with their caregivers—whether that’s a family member or professional—who know them better, and who can pick up on their facial expressions or mannerisms better than we can. We all need to work together."

For more information on Columbia Memorial Health’s Rapid Care centers, visit their website.

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