Clinical Director Provides Testimony at Nationwide Healthcare Forum

November 09, 2022

Autism New Jersey’s Clinical Director, Lauren Frederick, M.A., B.C.B.A., was invited to provide testimony, along with other invited participants from across the country, at a two-day virtual public forum about how to support medical care for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

The event was part of the Supporting Access for Everyone (SAFE) Initiative. SAFE is interprofessional and stakeholder driven and seeks to establish best practices for supporting youth with neurodevelopmental disabilities in medical settings nationwide. Run by the Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Research Network, the initiative recognizes that many children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders experience stress and behavioral challenges in medical settings.

While many hospitals and other healthcare settings have begun implementing autism-friendly practices, there is no mechanism to share strategies and research to inform best practices.

The two-day virtual forum brought together medical and autism professionals, self-advocates, and family members from across the nation to share professional and/or lived experiences to inform a consensus statement on best practices for supporting individuals with autism in medical settings.

The panel was charged with the goal of answering the questions:

  •  What do medical professionals need to know and do differently?
  • How can hospitals proactively make medical settings more accommodating?
  • How can scheduling, care delivery, and other processes make care more accessible?
  •  What systems and policies should change to advance health equity?

In her testimony, Lauren shared her experiences in supporting individuals with autism in hospital settings as well as her efforts to advance autism-friendly practices in that environment.

The two days of testimony by invited participants contributed compelling messages on the changes needed within healthcare to be more inclusive to those with autism and other special needs.

“The passion and dedication that professionals showed for their work as well as the lived experiences shared was incredible,” Lauren observed. “Over and over, it was shared that medical professionals and settings need to be more flexible, individualized, and open to differences. Unfortunately, there is a large gap between what we know needs to be done and how to actually do it. To me, this forum highlighted the need for high-level systemic and cultural change within healthcare.”

This need is why Autism New Jersey has launched an Advancing Healthcare Initiative. Similar to the goals of SAFE, this initiative includes a survey that seeks to hear the voices of individuals and families on their healthcare experiences. Autism New Jersey will use this information, combined with our Power of Connection throughout the state, to improve access to high-quality and compassionate healthcare for individuals with autism throughout their lifespan.

Autism New Jersey is excited to partner with like-minded colleagues and families across the country to increase access to timely and safe healthcare and advance best practices here in New Jersey.