September 29, 2011

Toolkit eases stress of blood draws for children with autism

Toolkit eases stress of blood draws for children with autism

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center has joined with Autism Speaks to create a free resource for physicians and parents of children with autism to prepare for blood draws and other routine medical procedures.

This toolkit, called “Taking the Work Out of Blood Work: Helping Your Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder – A Parent’s Guide,” and the companion: “Taking the Work Out of Blood Work: Helping Your Patient with an Autism Spectrum Disorder — A Provider’s Guide,” was created to help families and health care providers make medical procedures less stressful.

For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), medical procedures can be difficult. Reliance on fixed routines, communication deficits and sensory sensitivities experienced by many children with autism are factors to consider when preparing for blood draws.

This toolkit provides evidence-based strategies for parents and health care professionals that can be used before and during the medical visit.

“I often observed that many of our children with ASD struggle with blood work, whether as part of a research protocol or normal medical care,” said Cassandra Newsom, Psy.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics.

“Parents and children both appeared anxious as the time approached for the blood draws,” she said. “Our team knew we needed to pool our knowledge about techniques proven to be effective with children with ASD to improve everyone’s experience.”

Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows enrolled in Vanderbilt’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program collaborated with Kennedy Center members Newsom and Evon Lee, Ph.D., associate professor of Pediatrics, Psychology and Psychiatry, to develop these toolkits. The group interviewed pain and developmental specialists across VUMC, observed blood draws of children with ASD and drew from established strategies in ASD literature.

The toolkits are available for download at