I want to work with autistic kiddos, but how?

  1. I'm currently in my 3rd year of nursing school. For the longest time I have wanted to become a nurse practitioner and work with peds. I'm now thinking that I want to work with special needs kids, autism, Downs, etc., but I'm not sure how I can get my foot in the door. There are plenty of children's hospitals in my area and I know they have specialized care for these guys, but what would be the best route for training? Ideally I'd like to work in a rehab setting or in a dedicated unit. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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    About ECrad64

    Joined: Aug '09; Posts: 9; Likes: 1

    11 Comments

  3. by   NotReady4PrimeTime
    I would recommend that you load up on pediatric electives. Arrange for a pediatric practicum at the end of your fourth year. Child and adolescent psych would be a good one, but peds medicine would be another good choice. If there's a SNF for pediatric patients or an extended care unit at any of the children's hospitals in your area, look at them. That's where you're going to get the skills that will be most useful to you. Best wishes.
  4. by   Spidey's mom
    I'm a school district nurse and that might be one way to get involved with kids with autism.

    They usually aren't hospitalized for autism.

    There are special schools set up for autistic children.

    But most (at least here in CA) are mainstreamed.
  5. by   LoveMyBugs
    A lot of autistic kids do not have a lot of medical issues, more psych, so I would look that direction.
    I currently work in a pediatric LTC and out of 58 kids none have Downs and 1 with a diagnosis of autism. a lot of our kids do go out to school in specialized classrooms, so school nursing maybe an option where you work 1 on 1 with special needs kids. All of our trach kids who go out of the LTC to school they go with their own nurse.
    Pediatic psych might be another place to look, or look in doing case managment for group homes. I know my own son who has autism really hasn't had any medicall issues other than his broken arm last year, it is deffintaly more psych, and OT & ST

    I would take as many pediatric electives and clinicals that you can
  6. by   ECrad64
    Thanks for the advice!
    My 4 year old was dx ASD at age 2, but is very highly functioning. He attends a special preschool that mainstreams their kids to get them ready for grade school. I love medicine and the technical skills that go along with it, but I have always enjoyed working with special needs and I really feel that's where my calling is. I just wasn't sure if i should go into rehab or stick with nursing and become an NP and specialize in peds psych.
  7. by   KelRN215
    I'd say a school for children with developmental disabilites is your best bet. There are no inpatient "autistic units" or anything of the sort as autism itself is rarely the reason children with autism are hospitalized. That said, working in neurology, I see my fair share of children with autism because of the co-morbidities that are often associated with it. Cardiac would see their fair share of children with Down Syndrome because those children often have congenital heart defects. Any job in a pediatric hospital you will work with children with developmental disabilities, though.

    Also, when networking, I would advise against using any phrases such as "autistic kiddos, autistic children, Down Syndrome kids", etc. People who work in the developmental disabilities field tend to favor "people first" language. I.e. a child with autism as opposed to an autistic child.
    http://www.disabilityisnatural.com/images/PDF/pfl09.pdf
  8. by   KDugan1
    I also echo the importance of people first lauguage. If this is a field you are interested in then that will prove to be very useful and make people more comfortable in your presence. My son has Down syndrome and if anyone calls him a Down syndrome child, a Downs baby, or a special needs child I am immediatly turned off. He, like any child with special needs is not defined by his dx. Also, Downs is a term only appropriate in the UK. In the US it is abbreviated as Ds, if need be.
  9. by   mellzie22
    I am a pre-nursing student, but I currently teach at a residential school for kids with autism. We have round the clock nursing care at the school, so that is an option. One I am hoping to come back to once I become a nurse!
  10. by   mustlovepoodles
    I'm a school nurse in a small elementary school. We have 25 students who have autism to one degree or another. Most of those kids have pretty normal health, but several students have seizure disorders, eczema, dental issues, and asthma. I find that my assessment skills have to be especially keen with this population because they often struggle with sensory issues and poor expressive language. I depend heavily on teachers to give me clues to illness. Just getting some of those students to cooperate with basic vital signs can be a real challenge--most of them don't want to be touched, poked or looked at. And often they can't tell you when something hurts or helps. So I do a lot of observation, listening, and on occasion a good half-nelson (just kidding...not that haven't thought about it, though)
  11. by   mellzie22
    A lot of times behavioral issues are the first clue to an illness with the kids I work with. Since it is a residential school, my kids are generally pretty severely effected. I have gotten pretty good at noting changes that indicate an upcoming seizure or a fever or something. They can't verbalize, so it is up to us to try to help give them the words they need.
  12. by   DermottMcSorley
    Minor point about language.Many people with disabilities prefer person first language,there are some exceptions, many autistic people would prefer to be called an autistic person,rather than a person with autism. Perhaps the correct answer is to ask how they would they prefer to be addressed
  13. by   julesjameson3333
    I would just like to second DermottMcSorley's comment, that the vast majority of autistic people I know prefer "autistic" as opposed to with autism.

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