A recent article, Recommendations for Improving the Family Experience for Hospitalized Children With Autism, co-authored by Sarabeth Broder-Fingert, MD, MPH, Child Health Equity Center Core Faculty, provides recommendations on how to improve communication between children with autism, their families, and their physicians. Because effective communication is essential to providing quality healthcare, these recommendations have the potential to improve patient-provider relations, adherence to treatment plans, and patient satisfaction.
Communication Strategies for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Effective communication strategies that specifically address the unique needs of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families are vital to promoting child health equity.
According to data collected via the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Child Hospital Survey, parents of children with ASD reported they were less likely to definitively recommend a hospital compared with parents of children without ASD — suggesting that families of children with ASD may have a suboptimal experience in the healthcare setting.1 In addition, parents of children with ASD reported having unmet healthcare needs — suggesting that not only did these families have a suboptimal experience, but they also may have received suboptimal care.2
The good news is that there are strategies to promote better communication between physicians and children with ASD and their families to ensure patients and their families have a positive experience with the healthcare system and receive optimal care.
Communication Strategies Include:
- Shared decision-making – Higher rates of shared decision-making are associated with greater satisfaction with care among parents of children with ASD. Shared decision-making is a patient- and family-centered approach that allows children and their families to be more involved in healthcare decisions that affect them.
- Implicit bias training – Children with disabilities experience stigma and bias as part of their everyday lives. For children of color with disabilities who are already experiencing racism and discrimination, the consequences are profound. Implicit bias training equips providers with the tools they need to understand and consider the intersectionality of ASD and race/ethnicity when caring for children of color with ASD. This type of training is foundational to providing equitable ASD care.
- Autism-specific provider training – There are reports of providers having lower self-efficacy in caring for children with ASD compared to other children. Therefore, implementing lessons from diverse specialty providers (e.g., neurologists, general pediatricians), case-based learning and patient simulations, and the inclusion of multidisciplinary care team members (e.g., child-life services) has the potential to increase provider competency in caring for children with ASD.
Learn more about the Child Health Equity Center efforts to promote health equity for children with autism spectrum disorder?
About the Authors
Maia Archer is a Child Health Equity Center Intern and emerging Child Health Equity Scholar with an interest in improving the lives of children from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. She is a candidate for a Bachelor of Arts in Biology, minoring in French and Public Health, at Boston University and intends to pursue a career in community health with a focus on urban environments.
Alison LeBlanc, MS, PMP, is Executive Director of the Child Health Equity Center and a strong promoter of effective communication between patients and healthcare providers.