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A Protocol for Improving Outcomes in Emergency Department Interactions With Patients With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Samet, Daniel, BA, MD*; Luterman, Sara, MFA, BA

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001734
Review Article

The presentation of children and adolescents with autism in the emergency department (ED) poses a unique set of challenges to clinicians and their teams, which have not yet been met. Children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely than their age and ethnically matched counterparts to visit both pediatric and general EDs and are more likely to use it for primary care complaints and dental care and to present for psychiatric concerns including suicidality. Despite the higher relative frequency, individuals with ASD demonstrate lower patient satisfaction, lower healthcare self-efficacy, and higher odds of unmet healthcare needs related to physical health, mental health, health maintenance, and vaccination. This can be ameliorated by simple strategies regarding communication, sensory and environmental modification, and distraction. After performing a literature review of existing evidence-based recommendations via PubMed as well as resources from autism advocacy and self-advocacy groups, we compiled a 4-step system: “See-Hear-Feel-Speak” an approach conducive to learning with the goal of enabling clinicians and their teams to facilitate patient-centered encounters with pediatric patients with ASD. The protocol meets the practicality requirements defined by published research.

From the *Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Miami, FL.

No current academic institutional affiliation.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Daniel Samet, BA, MD, 19380 Collins Ave, #814, Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160 (e-mail:

There were no human subjects involved in this research.

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