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Experiences of emergency department care from the perspective of families in which a child has autism spectrum disorder

TitleExperiences of emergency department care from the perspective of families in which a child has autism spectrum disorder
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsNicholas, DB, Zwaigenbaum, L, Muskat, B, Craig, WR, Newton, AS, Kilmer, C, Greenblatt, A, Roberts, W, Cohen-Silver, J
JournalSocial Work in Health Care

Lead Author
David B. Nicholas

Study Aims and Objectives
To gain insight into the experiences of emergency department care from the perspectives of families in which a child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Methods- Sample, Procedure, Study Measures, Analysis
Participants were recruited from two Canadian pediatric hospitals. Families were approached to participate either during their emergency department visit, or within one month following their visit. Parents from 29 families were interviewed and asked to respond to questions about emergency department navigation, staff interactions, decision making, and their child’s health outcomes.

Results- Main Findings
Some common challenges that families faced included communication issues and a general lack of provider knowledge of ASD. Other issues involved timing, like long waits and feeling rushed through visits. The lack of welcoming of parental inclusion was also cited as a major challenge for these families, as oftentimes parents had the skills and advice necessary to ensure that their child received appropriate care and comfort but weren’t consulted as the expert on their child. Positive staff interactions with families, knowledgeable providers, and active distraction techniques that reduced children’s anxiety were all viewed as advantages to better quality of care and the overall family experience. It was also beneficial when providers treated parents as resources and partners in their child’s care.

Conclusion- Summary Statement
It is critical that providers are aware of the challenges that families face when bringing a child with ASD into an emergency department setting. Ensuring that emergency departments are equipped with autism-friendly resources that reduce anxiety and communication barriers will improve health outcomes and the overall emergency department experience for families.

PubMed ID27315287