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Catering for the needs of children with autism and severe burns in hospital

30th September 2014

Binns F, Kennedy R (2014) Communicating and managing children and young people with autism and extensive burn injury. Wounds UK 10(3): 60-5

This article looks at an interesting and little-covered issue in children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and extensive burn injuries. The authors begin by explaining some background to ASD, namely that it is a developmental disability that affects the individual’s ability to communicate and relate to others around them as well as their environment — this means that children and young adults affected by the condition can demonstrate challenging behaviours when faced with change or new situations. This is especially true in paediatric health care settings, where unfamiliarity coupled with pain and illness can make management difficult.

The article goes onto look at the authors’ burns service in a children’s hospital in Manchester and particularly how children with severe burns and autism often have a more difficult inpatient experience.

The authors found that the main reason for this was a lack of awareness among staff of the children’s particular needs, which manifested in issues around:

  • Concerns about patient/staff experience
  • Patient rights
  • Safety and behaviour
  • Management skills
  • Improving clinical effectiveness.

Following their findings, measures were put in place to change the situation and improve the hospital experience for children with autism and severe burns, including:

  • A hospital-wide care standard
  • Autism training and education
  • Development of autism ‘champions’.

In conclusion, the authors state that young people with severe burns require a high level of intensive nursing and medical input. However, while acknowledging that this is the case, clinicians also need to take into account the needs of the family and the child in question rather than focusing purely on the technical aspects of burn care. This means clinicians need to provide individually tailored assessment and care pathways.

Pic: Linsenhejhej @wikicommons

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