For some children with behavioral or communication vulnerabilities, including many on the autism spectrum, a hospital stay can be challenging. At Nicklaus Children's Hospital, our inpatient Adaptive Care Program supports the needs of our neurodivergent population and other eligible children.
What is ‘Neurodivergent’?
“Neurodivergent” is used to describe children and adults with brain differences that influence how their brains work and process information. These individuals have strengths and challenges that are distinct from people whose brains do not have those differences. These differences may include medical disorders, learning disabilities, sensory processing sensitivities, and other conditions.
What is Adaptive Care?
The Adaptive Care Program seeks to create a safe and comfortable environment for children on the autism spectrum and those who have other behavioral or developmental needs during inpatient hospitalization. The program's behavioral experts work with families to understand the individual preferences of children and provide tools and support for clinical teams to ensure that the needs of the child are understood.
Why is a Hospital Environment Difficult for Children with ASD and Other Specialized Developmental Needs?
A hospital can create a perfect storm of challenges for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other communication and behavioral vulnerabilities. A hospitalization separates children from the routines and predictability they typically find soothing. Unfamiliar people, places, and equipment add to the discomfort. The Adaptive Care Program team works with the child and family to find ways to balance the child's needs within the care setting to create a better experience for all.
Who is Eligible for the Program?
This inpatient program is offered to families of children over the age of 3 who have difficulty coping during hospitalization, or have sensory, behavioral, or communicative needs. Typically, these children have a current diagnosis or are being evaluated for a development disability or behavioral condition.
How the Program Makes an Impact
Behavioral resource staff at Nicklaus Children's work with families to provide resources and support to help their child have a better experience in the hospital. The staff also works with clinical team members to help them understand the needs of each child referred to the program. The program staff creates individual care plans for each child to provide hospital care teams with:
- An understanding of patient preferences/needs
- Environmental modifications that can support the child
- Activity plans
- Supportive tools
- Response plans to use if behaviors escalate
- Training to support management of children with communication or behavioral needs
Supportive Devices and Tools
The staff utilizes a range of tools to support children with communicative and behavioral needs. These can include:
- Sensory tools that offering soothing distraction and may calm children in challenging situations
- Visual aids and communications tools to help children express their needs and preferences
- VECTAs, mobile sensory stations, which can turn a patient room into a relaxing, distracting multi-sensory room.
How to Get Started
If your child would benefit from the Adaptive Care Program, please contact AdaptiveCareTeam@nicklaushealth.org prior to an inpatient hospitalization. The team will work with you to plan the best possible support for your child.
About the Team
The program is led by a board-certified behavior analyst and staff trained in applied behavior analysis (ABA).