Date Presented

Spring 5-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Lisa Jamerson, MSN, RN, NRP

Second Advisor

Kristin Shargots, MSN, RN, CCRN, CNE

Third Advisor

Nancy Cowden, PhD


This paper highlights the need for policy changes and additional training related to caring for individuals with autism in emergency situations. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder are at risk of receiving inadequate care due to the challenges that come with such a complex diagnosis. Depending on the severity of autism for each individual, behavioral outbursts and aggression can often occur due to the overwhelming amount of stimulation in the emergency department environment. While medical professionals have the potential to be a great help during times of crisis, there is often very little training given to providers in regard to delivering care to patients with autism spectrum disorder. While there are individuals who see the need for change related to emergency care for patients with autism spectrum disorder, there are not nearly enough medical professionals trained to deliver such care. Providers need to receive training that prepares them for the behavioral, social, and communicative challenges they may face when caring for patients with autism spectrum disorder. Hospital systems need to prepare to treat patients with sensory and behavioral challenges, including providing quiet, private rooms to patients with autism spectrum disorder. Communication with parents and caregivers should be addressed as soon as a patient enters the emergency department; this will aid providers in assessment and treatment and avoid any unnecessary triggers that may delay care. With the correct training and policies in place in the emergency department, the hospital setting can be a safer place for patients with autism spectrum disorder.