New Sensory Room for Children with Autism in Mullingar
Regional Hospital Mullingar (RHM) has become one of the first hospitals in Ireland to have a specially-designed Sensory Room for children with autism.
The aim of the new Sensory Room is to improve the experience for patients attending the ED with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorders. It will also help medical professionals in treating these patients.
Attending the recent launch of the room was Pauline Rice, a parent of a child with autism.
“It’s great to see Mullingar take the decision to create a room like this. Coming to an ED or any new location can be stressful for any of us, but it puts considerable strain on a child with Autism. I know parents who avoid visiting new places out of fear. To have this facility here, it gives parents the peace of mind to know they can visit the ED when needed,” said Pauline.
Speaking at the launch, Head of Operations in RHM, Kay Slevin said, “We’re extremely proud to be one of the first hospitals in the country to provide this service in our ED. The feedback from families, parents, and staff have been excellent already. It’s a small space but having this is such an asset when creating a more positive and relaxing atmosphere for children and their families.”
People with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder can be very vulnerable; in particular, when they find themselves in an unfamiliar or stressful situation as could be the case when attending the Emergency Department.
Also present at the launch was Adam Harris, founder, and CEO of AsIAm.ie, an advocacy group that provides information and education on autism. They empower members of the autism community in Ireland. He is also a Council member of Autism Europe.
This project has taken just over one year to become a reality. It was Joe Earley, a Multitask Attendant (MTA) working in the Emergency Department, who put forward a proposal to develop a Sensory Room within the ED. This new space involved the redesign of an existing area within the Emergency Department. Joe’s proposal was submitted to hospital management in 2019. A working group was then formed to progress the project.
Fundraising was carried out, including bag-packing in Dunnes Stores in December 2019. This, plus a very generous donation from the Paediatric Department, meant the Sensory Room could be finished a lot earlier than expected.