Simulation teaches doctors how to better help patients on the spectrum

ByAnthony Johnson and Eyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, November 10, 2023
Joy Dew teaches doctors how to better help patients with autism through simulation
Anthony Johnson has more on the program.

BRONX, New York (WABC) -- One local hospital is taking extra steps to treat patients with autism by setting up a simulation environment to learn from people who are on the spectrum.

The simulation at Jacobi/Montefiore Medical Center was the brainchild of a program run by Joy Dew which works to improve the lives of people with autism.

"Unfortunately in this area, there aren't any other hospitals that are autism-friendly, so this will be the first one," said Karen Millican, CCO of Joy Dew.

From putting on splints to dealing with internal injuries or ailments to getting an IV, patient care is all about communication and understanding.

About 80% of people with autism have trouble communicating. These doctors in training are using tablets, whiteboards and tools to find out why their patient has entered the emergency room.

"Most of these doctors are going to see a patient at least once every day if not every day, but almost all the time they're not going to know the person has autism," said Millican.

Patients with autism are more susceptible to things like intense light or noise in an emergency room. So, it is important for doctors to recognize these triggers for better treatment.

"Our patients are adults. Patients on the spectrum are treated like they're sort of below the adult level, intellectual level ability and they're not. And this experience has helped open the eyes of a lot of physicians. Young physicians realize those patients should be treated like any other patient," said Dr. Andrew Restivo, a simulation instructor.

Trainings like the one at Jacobi/Montefiore Medical Center are important. The simulation helps doctors learn how to get the information they need to make the proper diagnosis.

"It's such a privilege to get to learn directly from these patients how they can best be accommodated. How to best treat them and effective ways to impact the doctor/patient connection," said Joey Botros, a resident doctor.

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