SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA)- While the doctor’s office isn’t ranked high in anyone’s favorite place to be, children with autism have an especially hard time warming up to it.
“Medical procedures are really tough, it’s really aversive,” said Amanda Rafkah, Senior Supervisor of Therapy and Education at Project Hope. “They have a hard time going to medical appointments, whether it’s general doctor visits, specialists or going to the hospital.”
Not knowing exactly what is going on can feel isolating for these children, which is why Project Hope is exposing them to it all in a new way. By mimicking a doctor’s office and utilizing nursing students from USC Upstate’s Mary Black College of Nursing, it’s a lesson for everyone involved.
“This benefits both ways, it prepares our nursing students to provide better quality, holistic care to the patient population of individuals with Autism, and it also benefits the children here at Project Hope,” said Latasha Gooden, USC Upstate Mary Black College of Nursing instructor.
Latasha Gooden is a nursing instructor, but also a mother to an 11-year-old son with Autism. It’s why she feels confident in this new approach with a first-hand perspective from both sides.
“I just want to prepare students for that so when they go into the real world and encounter adults with special needs, children with special needs, and adults or children with Autism, they will know to be patient, to have therapeutic communication, to be able to meet them where they need to be met,” said Gooden.
Blood pressure monitors, stethoscopes, and scales were all used in the exam rooms, all in an effort to benefit the families.
“The numbers are growing, we are seeing more and more cases and more and more children in our community getting diagnosed with autism,” said Rafkah.
This practice for real-life situations is proving to help children on the Autism spectrum, and in turn, help nursing students prepare for the real world.
“They are demonstrating compassion and in nursing that is what nursing is about, we have to have compassion, we want to treat everybody the way we want to be treated, we don’t want to look at the children with autism as a disability, we want to look at their ability,” said Gooden.