Safe Kids Union County, Led by Children’s Specialized Hospital Team, Awarded $50,000 Grand Prize from Safe Kids Worldwide for Autism Safety Program

August 17, 2015

A global competition to encourage and fund safety programs for children resulted in the $50,000 grand prize being awarded to Safe Kids Union County, a local coalition led by Children’s Specialized Hospital team members. Only four other finalists in the Safe Kids Worldwide “Pitch Your Project” competition were recognized.

“We’re thrilled to receive this recognition for the work we’re doing,” said Joanie Roop, MSN, APRN, continuing medical education coordinator for Children’s Specialized Hospital and Safe Kids coordinator for Union County. “The award will help us continue to educate parents, communities, emergency responders, and children – especially those with autism – on how to be safe at home, on the road, and at play.”

These important efforts focused on injury prevention in the community are unique among hospitals, but all fit into the Children’s Specialized Hospital mission of improving the lives of children with complex medical needs. With 13 locations across New Jersey, Children’s Specialized Hospital is the leading provider of pediatric rehabilitation services in the United States, treating about 26,000 children with special healthcare needs each year.

Roop, along with Adrienne P. Robertiello, autism educator, and about a dozen other members of the Children’s Specialized Hospital team, continually work to provide safety education and resources to the local community through their work withSafe Kids Union County.  They frequently set up tables at community events, and meet with other groups and coalitions, such as the Brain Injury Association and local police and fire personnel. They often have a need for educational materials to supplement their efforts to keep kids safe.

With the help of the “Pitch Your Project” competition and award, the team will work with Safe Kids Worldwide to produce a series of safety-based visual tools for children with autism that will be available to children and parents nation wide.

“Children with autism have complex communication, social, sensory, and behavioral challenges, which puts them at increased risk for injury,” said Robertiello. “They typically learn best with materials that are visual, concrete, and repetitive, such as videos designed from their point of view.”

Some topics the team often tackles include home safety related to fire, medicine, chemicals, water (drowning comprises more than 90 percent of reported deaths of children with autism), and potentially dangerous equipment, such as window blinds and TVs, which often tip over and result in injury. Avoiding heat stroke and bike and pedestrian safety are often covered. They send out a monthly newsletter based on Safe Kids Worldwide topics.

The videos and other visual tools the team will produce with Safe Kids Worldwide will be available to everyone online and via tablets or other mobile devices. The objective is to prevent injuries, help parents and emergency personnel better understand the increased dangers associated with autism, and to help them better understand how to interact with and treat children with autism in an emergency.

“In addition to treating patients and families at our hospital locations, it’s important that we continue to be innovative, to make sure we’re filling voids we see outside our walls,” said Roop. “Kids – especially kids with autism – are at such risk. We want to help them stay safe.”

Read more about Safe Kids Worldwide and the Autism Program at Children’s Specialized Hospital.

Children’s Specialized Hospital is the nation’s leading provider of inpatient and outpatient care for children from birth to 21 years of age facing special health challenges — from chronic illnesses and complex physical disabilities like brain and spinal cord injuries, to developmental and behavioral issues like autism and mental health. At thirteen different New Jersey locations, our pediatric specialists partner with families to make our many innovative therapies and medical treatments more personalized and children can achieve more of their goals.  To help, or find more information: call 888-CHILDRENS; visit; Facebook:; Twitter:; YouTube:; LinkedIn:'s-specialized-hospital