Helping people with sensory needs at the Blacktown Hospital COVID-19 vaccination clinic

People with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities are being given the opportunity to attend a low sensory COVID-19 vaccination clinic thanks to the work of Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD).

The Blacktown Hospital vaccination clinic will transform into a customised service for eligible western Sydney residents in order to minimise noise, crowds and other potential triggers.

The weekly, stimulus-friendly, appointments aim to increase accessibility to the COVID-19 vaccine among vulnerable populations.

Blacktown Hospital vaccination clinic

WSLHD COVID-19 vaccination program client relations lead Julianne Harvey said the low sensory appointments will allow everyone to have a personalised experience.

“The clinic will have fewer people, quieter noise levels and a slower pace,” Julianne said.

“The team will have a pre-consultation with the parent or carer to ensure we understand the needs and triggers of each individual, therefore allowing us to create a safe, stimulus friendly environment.”

Anyone attending the low sensory appointments are allowed to bring items that may help with their comfort, like a fidget spinner, a stress ball, a weighted blanket, headphones or an iPad.

Recipients must live in Western Sydney Local Health District, be aged between 16-59 years with low-to-moderate intellectual disability, sensory disturbances, behavioural disorders or chronic mental health conditions.

36-year-old Michael was the first individual to receive their COVID-19 vaccination at the low sensory clinic.

Michael has a moderate global developmental delay and autistic tendencies and his mum Annette Tuttlebee described their experience as extremely positive.

“Michael doesn’t like needles – it has always been hard to for him to get vaccines, flu shots and the like, but I could not fault the processes in the slightest,” she said.

“The nurses and the doctors accommodated his every need, and while I was fussing try to get his rewards ready, the process was over.

“Neither myself or Michael were paying attention. He did not flinch in the slightest which is extremely positive for us. My husband and I were both extremely proud of him, and thankful for the team. They went above and beyond for us and I am glad that Michael is now protected against COVID-19.”

WSLHD chief executive Graeme Loy said this great initiative will mean even more people from western Sydney will be protected against COVID-19.

“As a district, we continually strive to ensure the health and wellbeing of the western Sydney community,” Mr Loy said.

“I give special thanks to the WSLHD COVID-19 vaccination program, WSLHD Allied Health department and all others involved for their hard work in establishing this clinic and ensuring we continue to meet the needs of our diverse community.”

The low sensory clinic is open every Tuesday from 8am to 9am at the Blacktown Hospital vaccination clinic.

Vaccinations are by appointment only and an expression of interest form to access appointments is available here.