Opinion: Beyond awareness: The medical system needs to deeply reform its care of people with autism

As a physician with a sibling who has severe autism, I can't stop thinking about how the medical system is failing people with autism.

I walked into the hospital room of a patient I had been assigned that morning. Noah, an adorable boy with dark, coiled hair, had severe autism. His mom was sitting on the hospital bed with Noah sleeping soundly on her lap. He’d been admitted for only a few hours, but a lot had already happened.

During the morning handoff, I had learned that my colleague, who admitted Noah, had refused to give him oral sedation before placing an IV, which he needed for antibiotics, despite his mother’s insistence that needles frightened her son and that, because he could not verbally communicate, he would lash out. When the medical team tried to insert the IV, Noah became extremely upset, hitting several staff members. The team finally listened to his mother, gave him the oral sedation she had requested, and quietly and safely placed the IV.

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