Past research has shown individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) visit hospital emergency departments (ED) at high rates. In order to assist individuals with ASD, their families and health care providers to improve ED care, it is important to understand these encounters in greater detail. The purpose of this paper is to provide a descriptive summary of the ED experiences of adolescents and adults with ASD, from the perspective of their families.
A subset of data from a larger prospective cohort study was used. Specifically, 46 parents of adolescents and adults with ASD provided details concerning 49 ED visits over a 12-month period.
Results suggest a range of presentations requiring ED use, and also diverse profiles of those with ASD who visited the ED, in terms of age, gender, and ASD severity. While overall degree of satisfaction with care received in the ED was high, parents provided recommendations to improve the ED experiences for their family members with ASD.
This is the first study to provide detailed accounts of ED visits from the perspective of parents of adolescents and adults with ASD. Families play an important role in the lives of individuals with ASD across the lifespan and it is important to include their perspective to improve hospital-based care for those with ASD.