Getting a blood test is a scary thought for many people. But it can be nothing short of a nightmare for people with autism, their families and the technicians tasked with extracting the blood.
“For a child in the Autism Spectrum Disorder, it can take about 30 to 45 minutes,” Susan Mallonga, a technician at LifeLabs, said. “They don’t like this, they will fight you.”
“Certainly coming into a very busy environment where blood tests might normally be taken, and busy waiting rooms, that child will often have meltdowns,” Pacific Autism Family Network medical officer Suzanne Lewis added.
The difficulty with blood tests can lead to delayed diagnoses and treatments for people with autism.
Recently, the Pacific Autism Family Network and LifeLabs partnered to create a unique room at Richmond’s GoodLife Family Autism Hub designed to soothe patients during a stressful time.
The room — the first of its kind in Canada — features sensory lights and a place to play videos designed “to make a child feel comfortable and settled and interested in their environment around them rather than focusing on what might be perceived as negative in terms of the blood test,” Lewis said.
Specially-trained technicians visit weekly to take blood samples while causing as little trauma as possible.
“When we heard from the families how difficult it was to get the work done, we knew we needed to do something,” LifeLabs community engagement director Louise Nagy said.