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Autism Research and Treatment
Volume 2012, Article ID 685053, 7 pages
Clinical Study

Improving Psychiatric Hospital Care for Pediatric Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Intellectual Disabilities

1School of Medicine University of Colorado, 13001 E 17th Place, Aurora, CO 80045, USA
2Children’s Hospital Colorado, 13123 E. 16th Avenue, Aurora, CO 80045, USA
3University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 510 Meadowmont Circle, Suite 300, Chapel Hill, NC 27517, USA

Received 10 December 2011; Revised 12 March 2012; Accepted 25 April 2012

Academic Editor: Jeanne Townsend

Copyright © 2012 Robin L. Gabriels et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Pediatric patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and/or intellectual disabilities (ID) are at greater risk for psychiatric hospitalization compared to children with other disorders. However, general psychiatric hospital environments are not adapted for the unique learning styles, needs, and abilities of this population, and there are few specialized hospital-based psychiatric care programs in the United States. This paper compares patient outcomes from a specialized psychiatric hospital program developed for pediatric patients with an ASD and/or ID to prior outcomes of this patient population in a general psychiatric program at a children’s hospital. Record review data indicate improved outcomes for patients in the specialized program of reduced recidivism rates (12% versus 33%) and decreased average lengths of inpatient stay (as short as 26 days versus 45 days). Available data from a subset of patients ( 𝑛 = 4 3 ) in the specialized program showed a decrease in irritability and hyperactivity behaviors from admission to discharge and that 35 previously undetected ASD diagnoses were made. Results from this preliminary study support specialized psychiatric care practices with this population to positively impact their health care outcomes.