Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment of Serious Behavioral Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Specialized Versus General Inpatient Units.

Document Type


Publication Date



Maine Medical Center Research Institute, Maine Behavioral Health

Journal Title

Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders

MeSH Headings

Autistic Disorder In Infancy and Childhood; Child Behavior Disorders Therapy; Inpatients; Hospital Units; Psychiatric Units; Treatment Outcomes Evaluation; Human; Psychiatric Patients; Psychiatric Care; Child, Preschool; Child; Adolescence; Young Adult; Adult; Scales; Chi Square Test; Child, Preschool: 2-5 years; Child: 6-12 years; Adolescent: 13-18 years; Adult: 19-44 years


Psychiatric hospitalization of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is common, but there is little comparative information available on different psychiatric hospital treatment models. Children with ASD ages 4-20 were enrolled upon admission to either a specialized (N = 53) or a general child psychiatric unit (N = 27). Caregivers completed the Aberrant Behavioral Checklist-Irritability Sub-scale (ABC-I) at admission, discharge, and 2 months post-discharge and reported information on crisis service utilization 2 months post-discharge. Children treated in the specialized unit had lower ABC-I scores at discharge and 2 months post-discharge (F = 8.98, p = 0.003) and were significantly less likely to experience an ER visit within 2 months post-discharge (X2 = 5.51, p = 0.019). Specialized inpatient units may be more effective for children with ASD in need of psychiatric hospitalization.

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