An ASD-Specific Training Model for Medical Staff to Support Provision of ASD-Friendly Medical Care

Thursday, May 12, 2016: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
L. Dewey1 and E. Bernabe2, (1)Nemours/Alfred I duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, DE, (2)Nemours/AIDHC, West Chester, PA
Background: Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often present with complex medical concerns necessitating use of a medical home model in providing comprehensive care for these patients. However, providing medical care through an ASD-friendly framework is more challenging than with other children with complex medical needs (Brachlow et al., 2007). Children with ASD present with unique behavioral needs when requiring medical procedures and prolonged inpatient hospitalizations. Medical providers often need to modify how care is delivered to support patients with ASD by implementing behavior management strategies (e.g., use of visual schedules, choices about care, behavioral motivators, preparation before procedures, etc.; Thompson & Tielsch-Goddard, 2014). However, medical staff often lack the training and confidence to provide medical care through an ASD-friendly framework that includes empirically-validated behavioral interventions.

Objectives:  The objectives of the study were to: 1) describe an ASD-specific training model and potential feasibility in a hospital setting; and 2) preliminarily explore if staff’s confidence improved after ASD-specific training.

Methods: Social workers in a children’s hospital attended two one-hour trainings two weeks apart provided by ASD-focused psychologists during the social workers’ weekly rounding meetings.  The first training focused on understanding ASD (n=18), and the second training focused on empirically-validated behavioral interventions (n=14). At both trainings, the social workers completed a questionnaire (6 questions on a 1-5 Likert Scale; summed for total score) developed by the authors that assessed understanding and confidence of ASD-friendly care. At the second training, two additional questions focused on utility of the training were included. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and independent sample t-test (due to the anonymous completion of the questionnaires at both trainings).

Results:  Social workers found both trainings to be useful (M = 4.2 out of 5, SD = .91; M = 4.5 out of 5, SD = .51) and reported a high likelihood of using the information (M = 4.1 out of 5, SD =.99). Additionally, preliminary data from the questionnaires suggested that staff confidence in providing ASD-friendly care and implementing behavioral interventions showed non-significant improvement (training 1: M = 17.33, SD = 4.2; training 2: M = 23.5, SD = 3.99; p = .877).

Conclusions: ASD-focused training for medical staff is feasible; training can be provided during convenient times for staff by professionals with pre-existing ASD knowledge. Encouragingly, medical staff found the trainings useful, and they reported a high likelihood to implement the behavioral interventions discussed during the trainings. Preliminary data suggest that ASD-specific training might improve staff confidence, which has been identified as a barrier for medical staff in providing medical care through an ASD-friendly framework.  Results of this study support training endeavors to meet the unique needs of hospitalized patients with ASD.