First Responders Must Learn How to Care for Special Needs Kids

According to an article by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, over the past 50 years, the number of children living with disabilities has tripled. And, about one in every seven children under 18 in the U.S. can be classified as having special health-care needs.

While many people may assume first responders have been trained to handle all types of emergencies, when it comes to special needs children, there can often be gaps in the training.

So what’s to be done?

In St. Louis, MO, a system called STARS is setting an example. Perhaps it can even be a blueprint that other states can follow.

STARS – Special Need Tracking and Awareness Response System – identifies the special needs children within a specific district with a number. Emergency dispatchers can relay this number to ambulance crews. First responders can then look up information by the child’s number and quickly learn details such as diagnosis, medications, baseline vital signs, common emergencies, effective management, which procedures to avoid, whether sirens cause the child anxiety, and even a typical hiding place and favorite stuffed animal.

There are similar programs in other states, according to the article, but they involve caregivers giving first responders an information sheet. The STARS database is a much more efficient tool.

Below is an excerpt of tips for emergency responders from the article:

American Academy of Pediatrics recommends several steps to be better prepared when children with special needs require emergency care:

• Caregivers and health-care providers should create a summary of information important in managing a child's emergency, and it should be updated regularly.

• Mechanisms to quickly identify children with special health-care needs in an emergency should be established and available to local EMS and hospital personnel.

• A standardized form should be used for summaries, including emergency contacts, major chronic illnesses and disabilities, baseline physical and mental status, baseline vital signs, medications, allergies and advanced directives.

• Rapid, 24-hour access to the summary is necessary. Copies should be accessible at home, school, during transportation and in the emergency department.

• Obtain parental permission to distribute the form to appropriate agencies. Maintain confidentiality of the form.


For the original article, click here: