Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. Clinical Psychology




College of Science & Mathematics


Christina A. Simmons, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Committee Member 1

Steven M. Brunwasser, Ph.D.

Committee Member 2

Katherine O. Gotham, Ph.D.

Committee Member 3

Patrice D. Tremoulet, Ph.D.


restraint, autism spectrum disorder, severe behavior, hospital


Autistic people--Hospital care


Clinical Psychology


Physicians in hospital settings are treating an increasing number of patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The occurrence of severe behavior is heightened for patients with ASD in hospital settings. Restraint is a commonly cited strategy to manage severe behavior across hospital departments; however, research on physician management of severe behavior in patients with ASD across the lifespan is lacking. Our sample included 25 participants across three medical trainee focus groups and three physician interviews. We investigated their experiences with severe behavior management and restraint implementation in patients with ASD at an urban teaching hospital. Transcripts were thematically analyzed using the constant comparative method of qualitative data analysis. Twenty themes emerged from participant narratives on experiences with severe behavior in patients with ASD. The five most salient themes included: (1) implementation of restraint by other hospital professionals and a lack of procedural knowledge; (2) alternative strategies to manage severe behavior in patients with ASD; (3) negative reactions/perceptions of restraint; (4) the helpful role of caregivers in treating patients with ASD; and (5) limited practical experience treating patients with ASD. Questionnaire results indicated adequate knowledge of ASD, with higher knowledge scores and lower reported stigma in physician participants.