Interacting with Individuals on the Autism Spectrum: Successful Care Depends on Communication with Patients, Families, and Caregivers

By Dunlap, Jayne Jennings | American Nurse Today, April 2018 | Go to article overview

Interacting with Individuals on the Autism Spectrum: Successful Care Depends on Communication with Patients, Families, and Caregivers


Dunlap, Jayne Jennings, American Nurse Today


EDITOR'S NOTE: April is National Autism Awareness Month. Learn more at autism-society.org/get-involved/national-autism-awareness-month.

HAVE YOU EVER FELT unprepared to navigate nursing encounters with patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? If so, you're not alone. Many healthcare professionals report a lack of self-confidence when caring for patients with ASD.

In the 1970s, autism prevalence was estimated to affect one in 10,000 people. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in 68 children are identified with ASD. People with ASD have been appraised to have more unmet healthcare needs than any other special-needs population. These health inequities are primarily attributed to significant socialization and communication barriers. As the largest and most trusted workforce in healthcare, nurses must be prepared to address this vulnerable group across all settings throughout the lifespan.

About ASD

Differences define humans as individuals, but unlike an outward physical attribute, ASD is a cognitive processing disorder that isn't always detectable by patient appearance. Scientific advances have uncovered behavioral variances that frequently develop during infancy and may allow for earlier detection of the disorder. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends universal ASD screening at 18 and 24 months old. Early developmental changes to cognitive tracking patterns can alter links between areas of the brain in those with ASD. This atypical cognitive wiring can make transferring information from one situation to another difficult for those with ASD.

Symptoms of ASD contribute to challenges in communication, socialization, and sensory processing. Some people with ASD demonstrate repetitive behaviors, restricted interests, and distinctive learning styles. These symptoms span a broad range and are unique to each patient. (See ASD signs and symptoms.)

Patients showing signs of ASD may or may not be diagnosed with the disorder. Some individuals require substantial assistance with activities of daily living, but others don't. Individuals with ASD don't necessarily have decreased intelligence; in fact, giftedness may be present in some children and adults with ASD.

Despite vast differences within this population, awareness of similarities (including difficulty communicating, forming relationships with others, and understanding abstract concepts) that are common among individuals with ASD can augment and guide nursing practice. Working with patients and their caregivers to identify individualized strategies is key to optimizing health outcomes.

Practice partnerships

Nurses should consistently seek care partnerships with patients and caregivers. However, this may be difficult when uncertainties in interpersonal communication prevent a clear understanding of defined goals and guidelines. Patients with ASD who struggle with social communication may find that requesting special accommodations is difficult, so use individualized strategies to address limitations that create barriers to healthcare.

Individuals with ASD interpret the world in an exceptional way, which may contribute to communication challenges. The burden is on us to understand them just as they must try to make sense of a "normal" world. (See Practice tips.)

Pediatric considerations

Healthcare professionals' interactions with children can promote caregiver compliance with prescribed therapies and treatments. Parents appreciate the rapport nurses build with their children with ASD. For example, caregivers have noted the importance of using their child's name at the beginning of every interaction. And when you position yourself at the child's eye level, you indicate that he or she is a participant in care. This inclusion empowers those who can to contribute during a healthcare visit. When you provide these opportunities, you foster a chance for children with ASD to practice healthcare engagement. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Interacting with Individuals on the Autism Spectrum: Successful Care Depends on Communication with Patients, Families, and Caregivers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.