Getting a vaccine can be a little nerve-wracking and uncomfortable for many people, with the worry about the needle and the anxiety we’re are apt to experience in a medical setting. Add on the discomfort those with autism can feel about tactile and other sensory issues associated with the experience, and it can become extremely difficult. One NFL team is doing what they can to make the process easier.
In late March, the Philadelphia Eagles Autism Foundation hosted a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the team’s Lincoln Financial Field, which got more than 1,000 vaccinations out in a sensory-friendly environment. That included a visual schedule clearly laying out the steps in the process, sensory items to clutch, vaccines administered in open spaces, and quiet rooms for those who needed them. Those administering the shots were also specifically trained to work with people on the spectrum.
Eagles Autism Foundation Executive Director Ryan Hammond says, “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges to individuals with autism and their families. We wanted to create an environment that was dedicated to their specialized needs so that members of this important community could be vaccinated in a safe and efficient manner.”
Among those who attended the event were Marge Muccioli and her 21-year-old sons Michael and Nick. She didn’t want to cause them any stress prematurely, so she told them about the event only the morning before.
She explained, “Since COVID started, anxiety has been through the roof.”
Muccioli said the clinic was a good fit for her sons, and it was the first she had found for people on the spectrum.
Jim Gillece has two sons with autism, as well, Trey and Griffin. As caregivers, he and his wife Pattie have been doing everything they can to stay safe during the pandemic. They’ve also had to explain why they can’t go out and do things they typically do, like attending Eagles games. Virtual learning and social isolation has just compounded the problem. This event at least helped ease some of the stress of vaccines.
Gillece says, “Today is very important for the Philadelphia community and the autism community because it signifies that this group is different, this group has special needs, and special needs as it relates to COVID-19 vaccinations. Today is the actualization of that.”
The Eagles have a history of advocating for those on the spectrum. They have a sensory room at their stadium and hold an annual Autism Challenge that raises money for autism research and programs. To find out more, click here.Whizzco