Autism Care Initiative

A fever spike in the middle of the night. Tonsillitis. An allergic reaction. A knee gash for a new bike rider. Asthma. A spontaneous dance party culminating in a chin catching the corner of a table.

Doctor’s office and hospital visits are a part of childhood. Whether the visits are planned or not, they can be anxiety inducing. For children with autism, the unfamiliar environment, unknown staff, and possible sensory challenges heighten this anxiety.

Autism can include challenges with communication, social expectation, sensory processing, and emotional control. Because of these challenges and the co-occurrence of other medical conditions, many on the autism spectrum rely on the expertise of Children’s Hospital medical providers to care for their greater incidence of injury, illness, and generally complex cases.

Once in the care of compassionate providers, there still can be barriers to successful hospital visits. A patient with autism might have limited communication and may not be able to express discomfort or pain in traditional ways. Others may be able to speak fluently, but could become exasperated and overwhelmed by new and different environments, procedures, or people. The challenge of serving patients with autism is compounded by the fact that characteristics of autism are unique to each individual.

Enter the Children’s Hospital Association its Autism Care Initiative. In partnership with the Autism Society of Minnesota, this project serves to address the complex needs of the nearly 10,000 families affected by autism in the Twin Cities Metro Area by increasing awareness and training for physicians, nurses, and support staff so they are prepared to respond with strategies that offer comfort, clarity, and accommodation to patients with autism and similar special needs.

Through the Autism Care Initiative, we will identify and engage key departments in training opportunities that allow for collaborative, cohesive learning of best practices and practical strategies that put empathy, compassion, and understanding at the forefront of care at Children’s Hospital. Additionally, because Children’s Hospital is just as concerned with a child’s well-being within and outside the hospital, our medical professionals will help families with autism navigate the resources, services, and supports they need to be safe, healthy, and successful in their homes, schools, and communities.