Linked Program Pilot Supports Autistic Children at Asheville Surgery Center

By Lisa A. Clark, MSN, RN, PCCN

There is a saying frequently heard about autism: “If you have met a person with autism, that’s all you have done is met one person.”

Realizing that each autistic person having surgery at the Asheville Surgery Center (ASC) needs individualized care, a multidisciplinary team recently implemented the evidence-based Linked Program.

Nurses, anesthesiologists, registration staff, Child Life Specialists and Certified Nurse Anesthetists collaborate to reduce stress and anxiety for autistic children and their families/caregivers, when surgery is required. The Linked Program implements strategies to improve the entire process from scheduling, registration, preparation, recovery, discharge and follow up.

The strategies assist autistic children in their lifelong challenges with social communication and the way they make sense of their environment. Our perioperative areas intensify the great difficulty experienced by those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD)* related to changes in routine, noisy or busy environments, medical procedures and typical methods of communication.

This Linked Program pilot is designed for children with ASD, but we foresee the possibility of expanding it to all children with special needs across Mission Health.

Strategies in the program include the following steps:

Prior to Visit

Day of Surgery Registration

Preoperative Preparation

Postoperative Recovery

After Surgery

Click here to learn more [1] about the Child Life program at Mission Children’s Hospital.

*Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of disorders including autism, childhood disintegrative disorder, persuasive-developmental disorder/not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. Reference: Shah, S.P. (2014, March). Perioperative Management of a Patient with Autism. Austin Journal of Anesthesia and Analgesia, 2(2), 1015.