Nurse Educator M.S.

Year Approved


First Advisor

Meyer, Kimberly


Background: Parents reported their children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) needs are unmet or delayed in health care settings. Health care providers stated they were not comfortable caring for children with ASD. Since communication impairment is the hallmark of ASD, nurses have a duty to know how children with ASD communicate and provide strategies to meet their communication needs. Purpose: The purpose of this critical review was to examine the literature for answers to the practice questions: How do children with ASD communicate? And, what strategies could a nurse implement to meet the communication needs of children with ASD? Results: Applying Johns Hopkins Research Evidence-Based Model (2018), the critical review yielded 18 articles with strong evidence from research and nonresearch. Throughout the literature, the findings included: children with ASD communicate differently, parents are a primary resource, behavior challenges are related to unmet communication needs, and integrating Watson’s (1979) ten carative factors into strategies is best practice. A gap in literature identified a need for more evidence-based communication strategies. Conclusion: This critical review identified three strategies to meet the communication needs of children with ASD in health care settings: (a) provide calm environment with sensory sensitive distractions and assistive communication tools; (b) integrate into the child’s plan of care, the parents’ insights about their child’s unique communication presentation, coping skills, and home routines; and (c) with caring moments, nurses provide time for children with ASD to process information, to cope with change, to relax, to feel heard, to feel safe, and to have their needs met. Implications for Research and Practice: Further level I research is needed to provide evidence-based strategies to meet children with ASD communication needs in health care settings, and integration of Watson’s (2009) carative factors to address their heightened need for quality relationships and communication.

Degree Name

M.S. Nurse Educator

Document Type

Masterʼs thesis

Included in

Nursing Commons