This case involves a 7-year old Autistic student enrolled in a public school. School documentation indicated that the student was at risk of choking and provided special instructions regarding her care. As part of her care instructions, the student primarily worked in a pull-out classroom program for children with special needs. She was mainstreamed with students her age during recreational hours but was always accompanied by a one-on-one teacher’s aid to supervise her activities and ensure her special care instructions were adhered to. During the student’s lunch hour, she was fed grapes that had not been sliced according to the special care instructions. Upon being fed the grapes, the student began choking and was rendered unconscious. Attempts were made to resuscitate the child but she ultimately expired. An expert in school nursing, with experience serving special needs students, was sought to review the choking hazard warnings provided by the school and opine on whether the student’s death was the result of negligence by the school’s personnel.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. What nursing and administrative protocols/precautions are followed when a special needs student is known to be at risk of choking?
Expert Witness Response E-024537
I have worked in early childhood special education in two states and have worked in four tertiary care hospitals. I have worked as a school nurse and currently teach school nursing at the university level, so I am familiar with special instructions regarding the care of students. Choking is a concern for special needs students. A plan of care must always be established and emergency procedures must be followed in the case of a choking incident.