HOSPITALS can present a range of sensory issues for autistic individuals, from bright fluorescent lighting and noisy waiting rooms to invasive procedures and feelings of uncertainty.

However one hospital in the North-east is taking positive steps to make the experience as manageable as possible for autistic and neurodivergent children who visit their paediatric departments.

The Queen Elizabeth (QE) Hospital in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, is currently working towards the North East Autism Society’s Gold Autism Acceptance Award, which recognises organisations that are committed to making a real difference for autistic and neurodivergent individuals.


So far, the hospital has developed distraction packs - which are available to all children and contain items such as fidget toys, bubbles and Rubix cubes – as well as investing in wobble boards, visual signage for the wards, worry bands and large egg timers which can be used to help children understand how long they might have to wait.


A visual storyboard has also been produced to help children understand what is going to happen while they are in hospital and who they might see, as well as displaying photographs of equipment, such as thermometers and blood pressure cuffs, to relieve feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.


Wendy Oliver, a nursery nurse working in the hospital’s paediatric units – which covers children’s outpatient unit, children’s day unit and children’s A&E and short stay assessment unit - says the distraction packs have been well received.


We find the children are calmer, so it does keep them occupied. Quite often we do give the packs to children when they have been on the day unit for a blood test, or give them to their parents to use on the drive home.


The QE also has a sensory room, which can be used as a quiet space or for consultations. While Paediatric Nurse Ashleigh Harrison, whose three-year-old son Jack is autistic and pre-verbal, is leading on the production of a care passport, which will ensure that hospital staff are aware of any additional needs a patient may have.


I have done quite a lot of research with the care passport. I have worked with different professionals but I also have worked with parents and carers, and I think this is really important because they are having to live this every day. “ hope in creating this care passport, I’ve been able to let parents’ voices be heard.

Parents will be sent the care passport when they receive their appointment letter, or, for those visiting A&E in an emergency, copies will be handed out by reception staff or during the triage process.


Ashleigh added: The whole purpose of this is so that parents don’t have to keep repeating themselves, because I feel like that is a big issue when children are coming into hospital.”


Find out more about the Autism Acceptance Award