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Keywords:

  • oral health care;
  • autism;
  • ASD;
  • attitudes;
  • special needs patients;
  • behavior management

ABSTRACT

The goal of this study was to explore (a) the attitudes and behavior of members of the Special Care Dentistry Association (SCDA) who self-identified as treating patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and (b) the relationship between their professional attitudes and behaviors concerning these patients.

Data were collected from 75 SCDA members who responded to an anonymous web-based survey on the SCDA website. The majority of respondents liked to treat children and adults with ASD (57%/56.9%). They treated approximately nine patients with ASD in an average week. The more they liked to treat children with ASD, the more patients with ASD they treated (r = .313; p = .018), and the more accommodations to overcome problems with communication, social interactions and aversion to change they made (r = .404; p < .001).

Providers’ attitudes concerning patients with ASD were quite positive and correlated with professional behavior concerning these patients. Future research should explore whether improving attitudes towards providing care for special needs patients could increase professional behavior and thus contribute to reducing the access to care problems these patients face.