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One program at Children's makes kids on the autism spectrum more comfortable: 'I am not afraid of a doctor'

Posted at 7:08 PM, Aug 23, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Meet Dexter, at just six months old he was admitted to the hospital.

"He was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called tuberous sclerosis," Wendy Andersen, Dexter's mom, said.

And then at five, he was diagnosed with autism. After numerous appointments and hospital visits, Dexter became afraid.

"We would drive by Children's and he would, in his car seat, he would say 'no, no, no, no, no,' just driving by," Wendy said.

In 2018, when Dexter was nine, the PATCH program rolled out at Children's Hospital and Medical Center. It creates a care plan specifically for the child.

"By partnering with parents, we learn about that child's unique perspective and experience," Dr. Pat Sullivan, program coordinator for PATCH, said.

They do this by having parents fill out a form, which is broken down into five sections:

  • How the child communicates and how staff should communicate with them.
  • Any safety concerns medical staff should know about.
  • Any anxieties or triggers.
  • What can or should be used to calm them down.
  • How they typically handle medical procedures.

"We put on there all of his likes, he like angry birds, he likes trains, he does not like to be man-handled, just everything that we could possibly think of," Wendy said.

And with all of this information on file, medical staff are better equipped.

"Here's the information, you take that into consideration when you are figuring out how you are going to deliver care or interact with the child," said Rob Harding, adaptive care specialist, for the PATCH program.

For Wendy, having this program gives her son a voice.

"It helps Dexter to have a voice in situations where he doesn't have a voice or he can't explain what's going on, so there is really this level of respect," Wendy said.

And because of the program, "I am not afraid of a doctor," Dexter said.

Even if you are not a patient at Children's, the hospital provides a similar form for parents to fill out and use at other appointments like the dentist. For more information about the program visit

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