Development and Evaluation of an Educational Initiative to Improve Hospital Personnel Preparedness to Care for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Objective:To evaluate the effectiveness of a multimodal educational curriculum on increasing hospital personnel's awareness of successful strategies and comfort in caring for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).Methods:We developed a 3-part training for front-line staff (i.e., front desk, clinical assistants, and phlebotomists) in 8 outpatient hospital departments frequented by patients with ASD. Following a needs assessment, participants completed an online educational module and then attended an in-person seminar tailored to each department. To evaluate training effectiveness, we administered pre-, immediate post-, and 1 month post-training surveys assessing personnel attitudes, comfort, perceived knowledge, and behaviors around caring for patients with ASD.Results:We trained 168 staff members from 8 departments. On the needs assessment, participants (N = 129) reported a mean 2.5 behavioral incidents involving patients with ASD over the previous 3 months; 92% believed that the training would be helpful for their work. Across pre-, immediate- and 1-month post-training surveys, scores improved on all questions related to personnel attitudes about the importance of ASD-friendly care, comfort interacting with patients with ASD, perceived knowledge about ASD, and self-reported frequency of behaviors intended to help children with ASD adjust to the hospital setting (p < 0.05). There was no difference in baseline scores or change in scores between clinical and nonclinical personnel. On a program evaluation (N = 57), 81% rated the training as “very good” or “excellent,” and 87% reported that they would be able to apply training material immediately to their role.Conclusion:This training initiative led to improvement in attitudes, comfort level, perceived knowledge, and self-reported behaviors of hospital personnel working with patients with ASD, which was maintained over 1 month.

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