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Children with autism arrive at emergency room for psychiatric crisis 9 times more than peers
Date:12/4/2012

se families had private medical insurance were 58 percent more likely to visit the ED for mental health-related reasons than those whose health insurance was provided through state medical assistance programs.

"We think this is because private insurance plans often exclude autism from behavioral health coverage, have few in-network providers or place restrictive limits on the amount of mental health expenses that they will reimburse," said Luther Kalb, MHS, first study author and a research scientist in Kennedy Krieger Institute's Center for Autism & Related Disorders.

With 1 in 88 children in the U.S. diagnosed with ASD, the use of the ED to treat psychiatric behaviors is likely to increase unless changes occur. Dr. Vasa suggests that this trend is especially troublesome because the ED is not an optimal setting for children with ASD since chaotic environments can exacerbate autism-related or comorbid psychiatric symptoms.

"Children with autism, especially those with co-occurring psychotic disorders or severe behaviors, need to have an emergency crisis plan in place," said Kalb. "Everyone involved in the life of a child with autism, from parents to medical professionals to school educators, needs to have routine discussions about what to do in the case of an escalating situation."

This study also suggests that emergency departments should consider adopting new measures to accommodate children with ASD. This includes greater education and training for ED professionals about how to properly assess and interact with children on the autism spectrum. Additionally, researchers suggest that the large numbers of children with autism accessing the ED may necessitate a separate area for children with ASD that is less chaotic and contains less stimulation than found in the otherwise busiest part of any hospital.

Further research on adults with ASD using the ED for psychiatric reasons and general trends associated with mental hea
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Contact: Cynthia Chen
cchen@spectrumscience.com
202-955-6222
Kennedy Krieger Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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