Special needs patients benefit from Levi's Link

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A trip to the hospital can be overwhelming for anyone. There are bright lights, unfamiliar faces, noise and commotion all around. Now, imagine if you were a patient with special needs. All the sights and sounds would be intensified, making you feel overwhelmed and scared. 

Megan Wilson knows the challenges of having a special needs child. Her son, Levi, was diagnosed at age two with autism spectrum disorder and childhood apraxia of speech. Individuals with autism have difficulty with communication and interaction with others, repetitive behaviors, and other symptoms that affect the person’s ability to function properly in many areas of life. They need to feel safe and comfortable, especially with first-time experiences. Megan reached out to McLaren Port Huron to see if a program could be implemented to improve the hospital experience for those with special needs. A committee was formed, and the Levi’s Link program was established.

The Levi’s Link program is a first-of-its-kind program in the state of Michigan. Levi’s Link promotes individualized patient care for both adults and children with special needs. Accommodations for patients and families include:
A Levi’s Link icon that identifies the patient as special needs
Special admission forms that ask specific questions to help hospital staff understand how to care for and communicate with the patient
Social stories, both in book and video form, that illustrate the patient’s hospital visit, from arriving at the hospital through discharge
Reduced exposure to bright lights and noise
Hands-on activities, including iPads and tactile, interactive toys
The ability for the patient’s family to be in the room before and after surgery

The Surgical Services department at McLaren Port Huron piloted the Levi’s Link program in 2018. Since then, the program has grown to include many patient units at McLaren Port Huron and is being implemented in other subsidiaries across the McLaren Health Care system.

A Levi’s Link Fund was created through McLaren Port Huron Foundation to purchase items for patients and help with education and training for staff. Each year, the Levi’s Link 10K, 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk raises money to support the program. The fifth annual event takes place Sunday, June 26 at Mid Michigan Materials in Jeddo, Michigan. The venue offers a unique, challenging terrain and exciting run. To register for the run, visit runsignup.com

To contribute to the Levi’s Link fund, contact the McLaren Port Huron Foundation at 810-989-3776, or visit www.mclaren.org/phfoundation

To learn more about Levi’s Link, visit www.mclaren.org/phlevi