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Gundersen Boscobel works to become sensory friendly

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Gundersen Boscobel makes donation to sensory friendly efforts.

Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinics (GBAHC) is working to meet the needs of its patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other sensory processing needs.

One in 59 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with ASD, and often present with social-communication deficits, restrictive and repetitive behaviors and challenges in managing sensory environments. Emergency departments especially are fast-paced, high-stress and sensory-intensive settings.

Aiming for Acceptance Executive Director Rose Cutting connected University of Wisconsin Madison student Jessica Muesbeck, a member of Assistant Professor Karla Ausderau's research lab, with GBAHC to find ways to make its emergency room and clinics more accommodating to patients with sensory needs.

"We often think of using what we learn in treatment sessions or in schools," said Muesbeck, who is pursuing a master's degree in occupational therapy. "But thinking about how to help individuals with autism better experience a hospital emergency room gives me a chance to apply what I'm learning in a different type of setting."

This summer, the collaborators worked to develop sensory friendly guidelines and determine adaptations necessary to support a sensory friendly environment. A sensory menu and toolboxes are being created to best support patients with ASD and sensory processing challenges. To help make this work possible, a $750 donation from the Partners of Gundersen Boscobel will supply the hospital and clinics with noise cancelling headphones, fidget spinners, sunglasses and other sensory aids.

"In a rural healthcare facility, everyone is asked to know a lot on a variety of different topics," said GBAHC Chief Executive Officer David Hartberg. "The relationship we've built with UW–Madison is great because they are the content experts who can fill the gaps where we need a little help."

Muesbeck and Ausderau have received a Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Seed Grant to expand their efforts to additional rural emergency departments in Wisconsin.

"Working in partnership with Gundersen Boscobel, our lab will gain important insights into how we can think about better serving children with autism," Ausderau said.

If you would like to help support local children and families with sensory processing needs, contact Gundersen Boscobel Foundation Director Natalie Tollefson to see how your gift can help impact this important initiative.

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