Experiences of emergency department care from the perspective of families in which a child has autism spectrum disorder
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Care for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the emergency department (ED) is increasingly recognized as difficult. Communication, sensory and behavioral challenges in a high intensity environment pose risks for negative experiences and outcomes. Through semi-structured interviews, parents (n = 31) and their children (n = 4) with ASD shared their perspectives on ED care. Participants identified issues that negatively affected care experiences, including care processes, communication issues, insufficient staff knowledge about ASD, and inadequate partnership with parents. Elements contributing to an improved ED experience were also cited, including staff knowledge about ASD, child- and family-centered care, and clarity of communication. Findings inform an emerging model of ED care. Recommendations for capacity building and practice development are offered.
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