UHealth Jackson Children’s Care Emergency Departments First in Florida to Achieve Autism-Friendly Designation Through Partnership with UM-NSU CARD

Inclusion and Accessibility at the Forefront of Pediatric Emergency Care

Miami, FL – (April X, 2023) – Miami, FL – UHealth Jackson Children’s Care emergency departments collaborated with University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD) to achieve autism-friendly designation, becoming the first network of pediatric emergency departments in Florida to receive this distinction.
“Our goal is to provide the highest quality care to every pediatric patient that steps through our doors, regardless of circumstance,” said Joanne Ruggiero, senior vice president and chief executive officer of Holtz Children’s Hospital and The Women’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial. “That is why we believe accessibility to health care that is inclusive for our special needs patients is not just necessary, but essential, making this designation a major step in the right direction.”

The autism-friendly designation means that the staff at all four emergency department locations – Holtz Children’s Hospital, Jackson North Medical Center, Jackson West Medical Center, and Jackson South Medical Center– have been specially trained to treat patients with autism and related disabilities. Additionally, all of the emergency departments now have a designated sensory-friendly exam room to give this patient population the opportunity to experience health care in a safe, comfortable, and controlled environment. The rooms feature soft music, dimmed lights, and a beanbag chair.

“We are proud to further develop our partnership with Jackson Health System as they continue to create safe spaces for patients with autism and related disabilities,” said Dr. Michael Alessandri, executive director of UM-NSU CARD. “This designation among the UHealth Jackson Children’s Care emergency departments shows that with the right team of compassionate caregivers, we can work together to make health care more accessible for everyone.”
When Kim Medor found out her son Tristan, who is on the autism spectrum, needed surgery, she was weary of how he would react to being in a hospital setting. Thanks to the autism-friendly team at Jackson West, they were able to visit the emergency department five times prior to his surgery in order for Tristan to be desensitized to the space.
“The team at Jackson West wasinstrumental in completely changing his demeanor toward doctors, nurses, and what to expect with his hospital stay,” Medor said. “This, in turn, made him calm and happy in an environment that would’ve otherwise been overwhelming due to sounds and lights, and invasive poking and prodding. I would highly recommend Jackson Health System to any parent with a child on the spectrum.”
Autistic patients who visit our pediatric emergency departments will now receive a sensory kit to help ease the stress of their visit. The kit includes a puzzle piece stress reliever, fidget spinner, and gel bead pad. Patients can then take the kits home after their visit.
To help prepare autistic patients for an upcoming visit to our pediatric emergency departments, we have designed a booklet, My Visit to UHealth Jackson Children’s Care Emergency Department, that is available on our website and shows photos of what they can expect. For more information on UHealth Jackson Children’s Care autism-friendly emergency departments, visit https://pediatrics.jacksonhealth.org/autism-friendly

About Jackson Health System:

Jackson Health System is one of the nation’s largest and most respected public health systems, with a mission of providing one standard of high-quality care to all residents of Miami-Dade County. The nonprofit academic medical system is anchored by Jackson Memorial Hospital, which is home to Ryder Trauma Center and the Miami Transplant Institute. The system also includes Holtz Children’s Hospital/The Women’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial, Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital, Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at UHealth/Jackson Memorial, Jackson North Medical Center, Jackson South Medical Center, Jackson West Medical Center, multiple primary care and specialty care centers, a network of UHealth Jackson Urgent Care centers, physician practices, and two long-term care nursing facilities.


UM-NSU CARD’s goal is to build a more welcoming community for citizens of all abilities by partnering with community entities interested in making a difference in the lives of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or related disabilities. This is all done at no cost to you. Autism-friendly is providing a welcoming, compassionate, and nonjudgmental environment for individuals with ASD and related disabilities. For more information, visit umcard.org.

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