The iTalkDoc is now available for you to download. Available on both IOS App Store and Google Play Store (iPhone and Andrioid). This app is designed to assist communication between first responders, and families with individuals on the autism spectrum.
The staff at National Autism Resources started to notice a trend that more and more hospital staff were calling for supports to help individuals with autism. This experience matched what hospitals were reporting, an increase in the number of individuals with autism visiting emergency departments. (1)
The iTalkDoc app was created to help simplify communication with autistic individuals. We designed it to be simple because too many choices can be visually over stimulating and make communication more difficult. Our goal is to create a starting point for communication.
Last year at a Trauma Informed Care conference, hospital staff shared the story of a 16 year old non-verbal teen with autism that came into the ER. They had no training and no means of communicating with him. He was a big person, clearly distressed, who needed care, but started to tear apart the assessment room. “As the mother of a young man on the spectrum, my heart broke for this teen. When I got back to the office I knew we had to do something to help this situation” said Bonnie Arnwine, president of National Autism Resources.
The iTalkDoc app is free to download and does not require an internet connection to use it. We have also included a very basic PDF of a healthcare communication board that users can print out.
Here are a few tips for communicating with someone on the autism spectrum who is under stress:
- As much as possible minimize sensory stimulation: sirens, flashing lights, bright/fluorescent lighting, monitors beeping, and several people talking at once can make communication difficult.
- Try to talk in a quiet and calm voice.
- To the best of your ability use simple yes or no questions.
- Many individuals on the spectrum need time to formulate an answer. Ask questions slowly give the person time to respond.
- If you need to touch the person tell them first. If possible demonstrate what you will do on yourself or another person next to you.
The Autism Society of America has put together a very helpful quick guide for paramedics and ER staff you can read it here.
There are now several training videos available for First Responders on YouTube. We encourage you to watch some. Most are posted by public agencies and last from 15 - 40 minutes.
We are actively looking for input. If you use the iTalkDoc app please give us your feedback. We plan to update it based on user feedback.