Challenging Behaviors: Parent and Hospital Staff Experience of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Monday, July 11, 2011

Norah Louise Johnson, PhD, RN, CPNP
College of Nursing, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI

Learning Objective 1: identify the global impact of challenging behaviors of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the hospital setting.

Learning Objective 2: understand the parent and health care provider perspectives of challenging behaviors of autistic children in the hospital setting.

Purpose: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopment disorder affecting socialization, communication, repetitive behaviors, and sensory challenges. The prevalence of ASD in the US is estimated at one out of every 110 Americans although world-wide many children with ASD go undiagnosed. A global health issue, children with ASD have more outpatient visits, spend more time during physician visits, and have more medications prescribed than other children, representing a high financial cost in addition to human cost. Fast-paced hospital environments, combined with the sensory challenges of children with ASD, may provoke challenging behaviors. Currently, there is little research regarding the behaviors or specialized approaches to dealing with the challenging behaviors of hospitalized autistic children. Thus the purpose of this study is to identify particularly challenging behaviors displayed by hospitalized autistic children and triggers for those behaviors.  

Methods: Semi-structured group interviews with 2 informant groups (5 to 8 health care providers and 5-8 parents of children with ASD) will be audio-taped and transcribed. Themes will be identified through narrative analysis.

Results: The results, available in June 2011, will include behavior clusters and trigger events for ASD children within the context of acute health care settings as described by parents and providers.

Conclusion: In order to test an intervention to reduce challenging behaviors, a better understanding of the behaviors of children when hospitalized, from both the parent and health care provider perspective is necessary. Results of this study will be used to create an observational assessment tool to measure specific behaviors of children with ASD in the health care setting.